Although the pandemic has triggered massive shifts in our day-to-day lives and even our long-term view, it isn’t without silver linings. At a high level, organizations are embracing flexibility like never before; employees are trading long commutes for higher levels of productivity; but more specifically, managers and employees are revamping their weekly 1-on-1s.
In a recent survey conducted by 15Five, over 1600 respondents shared how shelter-in-place has impacted their work, namely their working relationship with their managers and direct reports. What we found is that employees and managers are still focused on using their 1-on-1 time to go over to-do’s and action items, but many have started prioritizing time to connect and check in on each other’s well being—something that has historically been left out of manager/employee interactions.
Even before COVID-19 took the world by storm, 94% of managers claimed that the emotional wellness of their direct reports was just as important as their job performance. But until recently, the majority of employees claimed that they never brought up personal matters with their managers.
With an increase in meaningful conversations between managers, employees, and coworkers, organizations are at a greater advantage for creating resilient workforces. Resilience can lead to positive changes after a crisis, and encouraging healthy relationships at work can lead to more passionately engaged people. Both of these benefits contribute to the speed at which your business recovers from the pandemic’s impact.
When people don’t feel cared for at work, engagement inevitably tanks. Disengaged employees have a 37% higher rate of absenteeism, an 18% lower rate of productivity, and a 15% lower rate of profitability. But during a crisis, these percentages are likely to increase if no action is taken. Most managers have an idea of what defines an engaged employee, but helping employees feel fully supported and taken care of through so much day-to-day change makes engagement more difficult to achieve.
15Five found that 90% of employees admit to performing better when their company supports their emotional wellness. And while today’s employees are more stressed than ever, it’s vital that you’re continuously and consistently checking on your people and ensuring their needs are being met.
Taking time to listen to and engage with employees can dramatically transform workplace culture. A healthy routine of communication facilitates transparency and garners trust and honesty from both parties. Without those two traits, conversations and 1-on-1s can’t include discussions about mental and emotional health, let alone job dissatisfaction and performance issues.
The 1-on-1 is a time to authentically express your empathy and build a psychologically safe place for your people to be their whole, best selves. Here are five ways you can continue building deeper workplace connections:
1. Start your 1-on-1s with a check in. Don’t rush into action items and task updates. Instead, take the first few minutes to understand how the other is doing at that moment. This can set the tone for more interpersonal communication throughout the meeting.
2. Take work out of the equation sometimes. Not all conversations have to be work oriented. In fact, they shouldn’t be. Ask your people how their lives outside of work are going and create a safe space for them to share openly.
3. Grant permission to have bad days. The world is collectively experiencing a traumatic time. Understand that your people may benefit from taking mental health days or taking more breaks throughout the day. Work should always come second to your people’s wellbeing.
4. Understand your people’s biggest challenges. And then help them find the right solutions. It’s easy for people to begin spiraling if they feel stuck, so help them avoid unnecessary stress with your expert guidance.
5. Follow up. Just as you would follow up on a work-related priority, don’t forget to follow up on things going on in their personal lives. This shows that you genuinely care about them as people, not just as employees.
Cultivating high performance and engagement means shifting away from the idea that your people are merely productivity machines. Asking employees to turn off their emotions and personal stressors the moment they start working is no longer a logical thing to ask. Use these five tips and make the most of your 1-on-1s by diving deeper and understanding how your people are truly feeling.
Baili Bigham is the Content Manager at 15Five, continuous performance management software that includes weekly check-ins, OKR tracking, peer recognition, 1-on-1s, and 360° reviews. When Baili isn’t writing, you can find her binge-reading a new book or strategizing ways to pet every dog in San Francisco. Follow her on Twitter @bgbigz.