The COVID Workplace Problem:
Do you remember it? That special time in our lives, when dining in crowded restaurants was in vogue, hugging the friends we bumped into was a pleasure, and when arena seating at concerts and sporting events was just a natural part of our lives? There was so much freedom, confidence and connection with others in our world. Then one day, this nasty little bug called COVID-19 came around and completely disrupted our existence. Businesses closed, weddings and parties were prohibited, and just try to find toilet paper or hand sanitizer during quarantine.
Masks are now part of our DMO, friends get an elbow instead of a hug, and restaurants that are now ½ full (or ½ empty depending on your view) are required to sanitize our tables before and after we can use them. To tell you the truth, I’m not even sure about concerts or sporting events at this point! One thing that is certain, is that our lives have changed and our new normal has become filled with a bit of uncertainty and apprehension. How can we get past this?
While we can say that change is always a sign of the times, one thing that hasn’t changed is our need to connect as human beings. But, how? You’ve most likely seen all of battles that take place over opinions on social media, social distancing seems to be another wedge that can push us further apart as people “if” we let it. As quarantines are lifted and people begin returning back to work, the over-abundance of information, misinformation and opinions can lead to even more uncertainty as health concerns and logistics become the fore-front of our thinking. Tensions can run high and a whole new layer of stress can be added to our day, again, “if” we let it. New methods and technologies are required for a work force that exists onsite and now, online.
How Can We Create a More Positive Experience in the Workplace?
Okay, I suppose I’ve poked the bear enough for now. The real question is, how do we create a more positive and experience in our workplace during these times of COVID? Well, I thought you’d never ask! This is a bit tricky to answer at first, but as we dig into what drives our behaviors and emotions, we’ll start to identify just what it takes to fulfill some of our basic human needs. From there, we’ll have a much better opportunity in fulfilling the needs of a larger number of people and therefore creating conditions that aid in producing a more positive experience for the greater majority.
The Science Behind the Solutions:
As a student of the human spirit and a practitioner in modalities such as, Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP), hypnosis, personal training, meditation, as well as being scrum master of multiple teams, I’ve worked with hundreds of people over the years to educate and help them produce positive results in their personal and professional lives.
Every person looks at life through their own lens and sees it their own way. While this can be wildly different among people, psychologist Abraham Maslow broke down our human needs into five basic categories. These include:
1. Physiological – our basic survival needs, such as food, water, breathing, etc.
2. Safety – Health and wellness, shelter, employment security, stability, free from injury
3. Social – Family, friendships, romantic partnerships, groups, and communities.
4. Esteem – Respect and appreciation for and from others, feelings of accomplishment.
5. Self-Actualization – Achieving one’s full potential with one’s talents and being.
It’s easy to see from the above pyramid how survival and safety needs can occupy the foundation of our existence, however as we continue higher up the pyramid, our needs become more complex by adding in values, beliefs, traditions and personalized viewpoints. These perceptions become the relationships between our inner and outer worlds. Motivational speaker, Anthony Robbins has further broken down our human relationship needs into 6 different areas. These are:
- Certainty – a feeling of confidence in a particular situation.
- Variety – a feeling, of doing something different or change
- Significance – a feeling that you are an important part of something.
- Love /Connection – a feeling of deep caring and/or rapport with others
- Growth – a feeling of moving beyond our current state. The ability to improve.
- Contribution – a feeling of giving of oneself.
As individuals, these needs not only have a different priority of importance to each of us, but we also apply completely different sets of rules in how we believe they can be achieved. Let’s take significance for a moment. When you compare it to certainty, love / connection or growth, which carries more importance to you? Can you think of a time you felt truly significant in a relationship? What happened for you to feel this way? Did someone tell you, do something, give you something, or was it an internal knowing you had? How often does this need to happen for you to feel significant? Now, simply change the relationship from work related to romantic or vise-versa. Did your answers change? You see, your answers are your rules. They’re different for everyone and can change depending on the situation.
In the above two lists, the greater the number of personal needs that are met for us in our lives, the stronger we value our relationships and thus, the more positive and fulfilling our experiences become.
14 Ways to Foster Wellness in the Workplace:
With everyone so different, how can we apply these thoughts into creating a positive work experience? At ZiZo we’ve incorporated many of these thoughts into our gamification tools. By fostering an attitude of growth, esteem, communication and education, along with fun, a friendly sense of competition, and reward based achievement, our goal is to help create a unified workforce that focuses not only on production, but on building careers and establishing personnel that invests into their own growth as well as the growth of the team.
Whether your team is on-site or working remotely, here are some tips in creating a more positive experience in the workplace during this COVID period and beyond. These tips have been organized in a way to help handle some of our basic human and relationship needs. You’ll notice that there is a cross-over between them.
1. Setting up clear communication to express your strategies during a crisis.
What’s going on? Have you heard anything about…? Just how do your employees get their information? Without a unified point of communication as well as timely updates, information that is spread by word of mouth can quickly become misinformation. Consider setting up centralized points (online and offline) for employees to receive clear and consistent info with updates that affect your business. Fear can be a strong motivator. Nip it in the bud before it blossoms out of control.
2. Using team communication tools such as Slack.
Tools such as Slack are wonderful for team communication. General, individual and team specific channels can include up to 2000 people for text, video and phone communication. All posting privileges can be regulated, so important announcements can remain uncluttered and without comments. This can help instill employee confidence by providing direct contact and company-wide communication. Keep in mind, too many updates are just that. Too much! Reading a plethora of emails or “important” posts can add stress and a sense of overwhelm as employees attempt to keep up.
3. Respecting social distancing and masks
Let’s face it, masks are a pain. Then again, COVID can be a much bigger one. Implementing government guidelines shows responsiveness and builds trust that you’re working to provide a safe environment. As quarantines and guidelines lessen, allowing employees to remain wearing masks, sanitizing workstations and social distancing (where possible) ensures continued confidence that safety measures will remain in place until the crisis passes. Let them know you’ve got their backs!
4. Leaders – time to take the lead
In times of uncertainty, confidence breeds confidence. Share your plan. Get all upper-management onboard and speak about your mission and vision. Include the workforce in your vision and allow them to be part of the bigger picture. Offer your words of encouragement and express plans on how jobs are going to be kept. Then go to numbers 5 & 6.
5. Set up clear communication for workers to express their concerns.
You will never understand the fears and concerns of your employees if you don’t hear them. Set up a forum where workers can ask questions and voice their concerns. Send out surveys and get opinions. If you ask, be prepared to address and act. Actions reinforce the significance of others. Repetition establishes a sense of certainty.
6. Set up clear communication for workers – Part II
Engagement: Offer a way for employees to make positive suggestions to improve company performance and conditions. Online boards such as Trello offer great ways for teams to share progress and ideas. Reward the great suggestions by publicly acknowledging them and then act on them. Action means you’ve taken the comments seriously, and that the employees are a significant part of the team.
7. Daily stand-up meetings
In the spirit of Scrum, daily meetings are used to share information among teams that typically consist of anywhere between 3 and 9 members. These team meetings are strictly held to 15 minutes and while standing, team members answer three specific questions.
1. What work did you do yesterday to help the team?
2. What will do today to help the team?
3. Do you have any roadblocks or impediments that will slow or stop your progress?
Meetings are held at the same time every day and a scrum master facilitates them. Any roadblocks are noted and addressed after the meeting. Any additional issues are tabled and handled by the appropriate team members after the meeting. This is a great way for the team to share progress and accountability. After the meeting, teams are encouraged to share ideas in improving productivity. This will benefit all industries.
8. Consider virtual coffee breaks and happy hours – planned and unplanned.
During the height of quarantine in New York, my wife and I invited some friends over for a wine and movie night. While that may have raised an eyebrow or two, we did this completely virtual. We selected a movie (stand-up comedy actually) on a streaming network, hit play at the same time, all while our laptops streamed our faces. We were able to see each other’s reactions in real time and hadn’t laughed quite that hard in a long time. Try setting up a virtual water cooler with Zoom or Gotomeetings where people can pop in and out at random times and interact with whoever happens to be there. This is another way to help create and maintain human connection at a time where it’s been limited. The randomness of the moment can help add variety to the day.
9. Offer mental health relief from stress and anxiety
Can we talk? I’ve personally been meditating on and off since the early 90’s. I’ve also been teaching classes and courses on it for nearly 10 years. The past few semesters, I have been invited to teach it at the State University of New York at Fredonia. Let me say, that I don’t meditate to be a better meditator. I meditate, because it makes me better at living my life. I’m more productive and more at peace than I’ve ever been. While those years haven’t been completely without stress (sometimes quite the opposite), the stress has been a temporary condition and not a chronic response. Try offering meditation, mindfulness, tai chi, chi gong, yoga, hypnosis or anything else that can calm the mind and body. People need this!
10. Create a transparent work path
We all have our strengths and weaknesses in life. Sometimes we try so hard to make improvements, only to find our wheels spinning in the dirt. In business, our strengths are usually indicated by our performance in a given area. (called performance indicators or PI) However, some of those PIs aren’t key to the department and/or industry we are in. The ones that are key are called KPI or Key Performance Indicators. While success has different meanings for each of us, we all want to grow and be better at what we do. Wouldn’t it had been nice, if while working our way through the ranks, somewhere along the way, someone would have said, “This is what you need to do”? “This is where you’ll growth, and here is your greatest earning potential.”
Spend some time as you restructure to this new normal and define 3 to 5 KPIs that define the qualities that your top performing people achieve on a consistent basis, then offer a path to help educate, inspire and reward your workforce in all becoming top performers.
11. Friendly competitions to receive real rewards and benefits
In the previous suggestion, I mentioned that a person can have PIs that are not quite key to the department they are working in. As an example, think of someone on your sales staff with strong art skills. The ability to draw or play an instrument is great, but it doesn’t assist them in performing their tasks. What if there was a way to leverage some of their abilities and reward
them in the process? Well, you can. If your marketing department is preparing a new campaign and you’d like to engage the staff in this new vision, offering a friendly competition in design or creation is a great way to do this. Be creative yourself by offering gifts or bonuses that are special, such as time off, dinner with the boss, or monetary incentives. Remember, even a chicken scratch of a brilliant idea is still a brilliant idea!
12. Shout-outs to give credit where credit is due.
I heard a long time ago, that what you tell a person can be forgotten rather quickly. What you do for a person, has much more longevity, but can be forgotten over time. However, when you change the way a person feels, they’ll remember you for a lifetime. Statistically, people will invest much more time and emotion into something for gratitude, acceptance and recognition, than they will for money. Publicly acknowledging others for their work is a huge boost in confidence, connection, certainty and esteem. It will also show growth and allow for contribution. Win–Win!
13. Online learning / courseware
There are so many tools available online today that can help your workforce grow. Websites like, LinkedIn learning, Udemy and Coursera offer hundreds of courses and classes that are technology driven and industry specific. Take a look to see what courses are right for your organization and approve some content for employee learning. Remember, shout-outs, incentives and rewards go a long way when they coupled with a path for growth. A creative competition can always add that extra element of fun and connection. They say that the cream always rises to the top, but without the opportunity to rise, it will always stay hidden in the mix! This is a great opportunity for self-actualization and growth. Having employees train others in there talents offers contribution, growth, significance and esteem.
14. Last but not least – Exercise / Health and Wellness
There is a huge difference between fitness and health. Fitness has to do with our ability to perform certain tasks such as in sports, moving objects, running, jumping, etc. Health is our wellbeing and the condition of our body and body function. You can be very healthy and not too fit, and on the other hand, you can be very fit and not too healthy. When it comes to fitness or health, not many people know where to even start to improve their conditions. Offering exercise trainers, nutritionists, healthy recipes, company cookbooks, even corporate walks for a good cause can inspire health and wellness in the workforce. Corporate challenges for the most changed, most improved, most consecutive days in the gym can be rewarded as well as inspiration for others. When the body improves, the mind and attitude follows. When the mind and attitude improve, the body follows as well.
Thank you for reading. I’m wishing you all healthy and productive journey!