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International Day of Happiness - the importance of staying connected in the workplace

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March 20th is International Day of Happiness and so Stephanie Davies explores just how organisations can keep the happiness flowing by ensuring everyone stays connected.

Return to work

This year, the theme for International Day of Happiness is: keep calm, stay wise, be kind. And the mission statement for this UN-created global happy-fest? ‘As we face a global crisis together, let’s find positive ways to look after ourselves and each other.’

I couldn’t agree more. And it’s not just families, friends, communities and social groups that need to adhere to this message. Workplaces have a moral imperative to support their people and ensure organisational happiness. This means staying connected.

As lockdown eases and the return to work starts, we will see an epidemic of mental health issues across the spectrum, from the anxiety experienced by those emerging from a year of working from home to PTSD suffered by the heroic health workers who have been working on the front line of the battle against Covid-19.

Adjustments ahead as lockdown eases 

There are adjustments ahead and remote working will arguably be the biggest change we see. Employers have a duty of care not just for office-based staff, but for home-based staff as well.  Leaders should now be planning how to create the right structures of support to help all their people cope with the adjustments that will be required in the months ahead, no matter what their pattern of work.

Remote working presents unique happiness challenges. How do you do virtual support? 

At Laughology, we’ve had over a decade of experience in creating happy workplaces and developing environments where people are supported and encouraged to thrive. One of the key lessons we’ve learned is that connection is key. And just because someone is a remote worker, does not mean they have to be remote from the office community. 

We need connectivity for happiness 

Humans are social animals. The last year has proved just how much we need connection. It’s an essential element of happiness. Making workers feel connected and part of the work community, no matter where they happen to be, is one of the secrets of a happy workforce. 

Technology such as videoconferencing, while not perfect, has proved a godsend during the pandemic. But even simpler social tools, such as WhatsApp groups and good old fashioned voice calls, are invaluable in keeping teams connected. 

Onboarding new team members in a virtual environment 

One of the biggest challenges we are hearing from workplaces is the issue of onboarding new team members in lockdown. When the newbie is working from home, it can be hard for them to feel part of the team. In normal times, even remote workers can meet their colleagues face-to-face occasionally, but in the pandemic, workers have largely been confined to barracks, only interacting in the more formalised environment of Zoom or Teams. 

The thing to remember here is that remote working does not have to mean being socially remote. There’s always a danger, in the new pattern of work, for managers to check in, set tasks and then move on and for individuals to work in single silos. New members can often feel left out and isolated. Collaboration also suffers. 

Connecting to your peers for support

One successful way we have found to remedy newbie isolation is the creation of peer groups. These offer excellent opportunities for newcomers to connect and feel supported. 

The groups should consist of no more than three members who get together once a week or every other week to chat through personal and professional challenges. Using this structure, colleagues can support each other, offer advice and signpost each other to places of help if help is needed. 

Group members stay connected and organisations also benefit because groups will tend to collaborate informally.

It's okay not to be happy, but we all need a laugh 

While every effort should be made to create happy environments for teams, another factor that should be remembered when introducing new team members is, it’s okay not to be happy. Indeed, if you constantly chase happiness, you’ll end up being unhappy. After all, life isn’t always a bed of roses or a box of chocolates, no matter what Forrest Gump may tell you.

It’s important to remember it’s okay not to be okay. People will have off days, particularly given the events of the past year, in which many people have had more off days than good days. 

It is important for organisations to keep a check on their people and for colleagues to check in on each other to make sure that those who are struggling know they have support. It’s also imperative for workplaces to keep tabs on workers' mental wellbeing because resilience differs from person to person. Some people can shake off a bad day, others may need more help.

The last thing workplaces need to remember, particularly as people begin to feel their way forward through new patterns of work, is that it’s important to make time for fun. Some creativity may be needed here, especially when teams are likely to be a mix of remote and part-time work-from-homers. Managers should encourage socials and make use of virtual platforms in order to bring people together. 

More than ever we all need a laugh, it’s a workplace’s job to make it happen. 

Stephanie Davies

 

Creating flexible work strategies that increase en...
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