This year has taught us lessons we could not have imagined a year ago: lessons on time management, work-life integration, and overcoming professional and personal hurdles. Even in the best of times, the end of the calendar year can be extremely busy for many organizations. For individuals, this time of year also brings hectic schedules and other stressors, both emotional and financial. Additional challenges presented by the pandemic, social unrest, and the recent contentious election will likely make December 2020 a uniquely difficult time.
As we head into this month, we encourage you to take a step back and think about what you expect from your teams, and what you can offer them in return.
- As more organizations continue with a remote work force, it becomes easy to assume someone is available and checking in at all hours of the day. Learn to respect employees’ off-hours by honoring their boundaries and implementing strategies that allow them to disengage and focus on other aspects of their busy lives:
- Empower employees to honor their own boundaries by committing to not working during their off hours.
- Set clear expectations for employees and supervisors about work hours and non-work hours and encourage all to respect these times.
Encourage employees to use their “out of office” messages in email or voice mail during non-working hours.
- Consider whether your emails to staff who are on vacation need to be sent immediately. Does the email involve an issue that can wait until they return to work? Even if you don’t expect them to respond to you at that time, sending a message during non-working hours can have a negative effect on employees trying to disengage.
- Use the Delay Delivery option on email. This tool allows you to draft a message while it is fresh in your mind but delays an employee’s receipt of that email until they resume work hours.
- Make sure your non-exempt employees and their managers understand that all work time – even checking and responding to quick emails at night – is work time that must be tracked and compensated.
- Think about other ways you can support your employees individually and collectively at this time:
- If your benefits plan comes with an Employee Assistance Program (EAP), now is a good time to share the information again with employees to remind them of the services that are available to them. If employees do not have access to an EAP, consider partnering with local non-profit agencies that may be able to provide different resources and support. For example, United Way 2-1-1 is a national hotline that connects people with resources in their own communities and is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
- Does your organizational have a culture that encourages mental and physical wellness? Consider organizing a challenge to incentivize self-care or arrange for group exercise times.
- Coordinate fun group activities such as cookie recipe exchanges, secret gift exchanges, or donations to a non-profit your organization supports.
- Show support for your employees in tangible and intangible ways:
- If your organization has a budget for it, consider sending a “Thank you for getting us through 2020” gift, gift card, or bonus with a personal message written to each employee.
- Surprise employees with an extra half day off one afternoon; encourage them to take the time to do something nice for themselves.
- Check in with your employees individually; ask them “Are you OK?” and mean it. Listen to their concerns.
By necessity, you spend most workdays focused on the needs of your organization, clients, and other stakeholders. This month, we encourage you to take some time to focus on your employees, one of your most important assets. It’s been a hard year for so many. Let’s grant each other some grace to finish out the year strong, and together we can welcome 2021 with renewed strength.