How to make work good for our mental health

“Big resignation.” “Big shakeup.” We should talk about “A great reinvention”.

As companies announce their plans to return to the office, it’s time to boldly reimagine how “getting back to business” doesn’t mean going back to “business-as-usual”.

More than 80% of workers say they don’t want to go back to old office standards, but 50% of business leaders want their employees to return to full-time, in-person work in 2022.

It’s no wonder 52% of workers are considering leaving their current job in favor of a full-time remote or hybrid job, and 53% say they are placing a higher priority on their mental wellbeing now. compared to before COVID.

As CEOs, HR directors, and team leaders experience the future of work, they must act with more intention than ever to retain the best things we’ve discovered over the past two years of work. remotely: a spirit of collaboration between employees that is becoming more democratic, improved productivity thanks to asynchronous work and, above all, priority to personal well-being.

I’ll be the first to say that any digital platform, like Slack, is just a means to an end. Working from home brought its own mental health issues as the lines between work and personal time blurred. Nearly half of workers surveyed felt pressured to respond to messages quickly, even if they were sent after hours.

Our exit from COVID should not worsen our other long-running mental health pandemic, which impacts our individual happiness as well as our collective bottom line to the tune of $1 trillion in lost productivity each year.

The return on investment for companies that choose to increase their mental health resources is enormous, a return of $4 in improved health and productivity for every dollar invested.

The problem is that too few middle managers are currently equipped with the skills to be the inclusive leaders they need, scoring nearly 2 times lower for sense of belonging and work-related stress compared to senior managers. . Thirty-eight percent of hybrid employees say they are frustrated and confused about when and why they will be expected in the office.

Like millions of Americans and 20% of Slack’s workforce, I was hired and onboarded into my previous role as Human Resources Manager remotely, and continued to work from my home in Chicago. without meeting a single colleague in person for months.

Instead of feeling adrift and disconnected, the unique approach to work, culture and digital-first communication allowed me to be even more engaged and effective in the role in surprising ways and, I believe, to shed useful light on what the next generation of working life will become.

For example, we have instituted “Fri-yays”, with Fridays being a day off for employees so they can do something they find personally rewarding or, quite frankly, just disconnect as a safeguard against the ‘burnout. Basically this only works if every person takes a day off, starting with the team leader, because if the boss is working, the employees won’t feel free to actually use the time for what it is meant to be. , a real break.

I looked for ways to be vigilant about checking in with my team members. Prior to the meetings, I would ask each person to share two adjectives that describe how they feel. “I feel full of energy but anxious” or “Stressed but happy”. A simple break like this allows leaders to meet people where they are and, similarly, employees to feel validated to best navigate this time. This simple act allows leaders to create a sense of anchor for the team before getting to work.

There is no one-size-fits-all solution to achieving high productivity and alleviating the mental stress of this new world of work.

We are not only committed to asking the right questions, we are beginning to learn the right answers through large-scale research and bold experimentation. The future of the workforce and the mental well-being of employees depend on it.

Nadia Rawlinson is a board member and former director of human resources at Slack.

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