Applying tech creatively to protect your team’s wellbeing
Technology has enabled the achievement of remote working demands but, with a little imagination, it can offer necessary virtual support as wellbeing needs develop. In the second part of her two-part series, Alex Falcon Huerta shares some creative uses of technology to meet these needs.
As leaders, we have a duty to provide support and care to our team. But in these times, mental health and socialising are genuine concerns and it is crucial that we pay attention to keeping coworkers positive and worries to a minimum. But while the usual means of keeping the team engaged and connected are off the cards, a little imagination is needed to find alternative solutions.
Leading and engaging a team virtually has become a necessity to allow business continuity, but the technological restrictions we faced five or ten years ago no longer exist. As a result, there are infinitely more options for virtually looking after your team’s wellbeing in this current crisis – below are some changes I have implemented.
Each Friday, the team orders a takeaway for themselves and their families using the JustEat app or an alternative food app, if they prefer, and I reimburse them the cost of the food when they send their receipt to Receipt Bank. We have fun chatting about our choices together – Mexican, Indian and Italian cuisines seem to be the favourites.
We then share our pictures on our #wfh slack channel – it's a nice gesture and they feel appreciated. I also chose this idea as it helps support local businesses and during this difficult time.
Online team games
We all joined the House Party app because it's not always about work. The House Party games break down the current levels of work stress. It brings laughter to the day whilst we are inundated with a particularly heavy workload as we are dealing with COVID-19 as well as year-end taxes for the UK. A break from this once a week is very much needed.
Meditation and wellbeing
We have a meditation session once a week to help reduce anxiety and stress, which also allows the team to re-energise. For me, teachings around breathing techniques and how to remain calm in order to deal with what's going on is a priority.
Some of my team look after family members and these sessions help them cope with their struggles outside of work, which are now inextricably linked, particularly as their work life now, literally, lives in their home.
Being stuck in the confines of their homes all the time with family members (however much they are loved) can be overwhelming – so this helps take care of the mental wellbeing of the team.
All team members have access to Vitality (private medical insurance) which gives them free access to counselling sessions, if they choose. Whilst not always required, it isis comforting to know that this particular form of support is available. At the same time, professional counselling can provide crucial help during particularly tough times.
During the #wfh, I’ve met the team's family members and pets and pictures of them are also being sent on the #wellbeing slack channel. It's been brilliant and uplifting to see, and we have connected more than we otherwise would have done in the office. It has been an important reminder that people have a life outside of work – but also a reminder to each team member that they are not alone.
Virtual team meetings
We do 40-minute virtual team Zoom meetings first thing each morning to discuss client work and the ongoing COVID-19 emergencies. Now that clients are aware of what they need to do, our meetings have now become more of a virtual coffee morning and chat. During our conversations, the team share how they have been keeping themselves entertained during the lockdown, as well as ideas and experiences. One team member has created a racecourse in the garden for her younger sister. Others are baking more or decorating the house. It is important to keep them light so the team stays engaged.
Overall, the team now much prefers working from home and want this to be considered as an ongoing option. To see how I can make this happen, I will first be reviewing my lease agreement for the current office.
What the future holds
What you learn from and what you do with the information, is the most important aspect of any life experience.
As a business, I was forced to make changes much faster than I had originally planned. I ended up moving projects around to ensure our clients and the team had all the tools they needed. Our online client portal Smart Vault was prioritised to allow clients access to their data quickly in order to apply for loans or grants. This was a project I kept putting off.
The team is happy to work from home. Our aim is to stay remote but utilize a virtual office and rent meetings rooms when required. The spare cash can allow us to invest in people and new team members.
The coronavirus crisis has allowed us to strengthen our communication in a remote culture environment. It has taken some of the pressure off myself as the boss because it forces the team to be more proactive and communicate better with each other. As a digital firm, we are agile and responsive to change. We can adapt to the economic climate which will allow us to grow as a firm and remain current.
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The founder of Soaring Falcon Accountancy, Alex Falcon Huerta FCCA is a Xero MVP and member of ACCA's international assembly. With a background as an accountant working with some of the most agile and progressive small businesses in the UK, Alex is an early technology adopter who set up her practice to accelerate change both for her clients and...