Normalize Prioritizing One’s Mental Health

Image via Wall Street Journal

While WFH during the pandemic has been a toll for a staggering number of workers’ mental health, it is important to normalize making our mental health a priority instead of prioritizing our workload. That could come later. Just like how we do not expect elite athletes to perform without rest and recovery. There is no sustainable productivity improvements without addressing well-being. This goes for “connected employees” – those who are heavily engaged and connected to their company, role and colleagues.

Industrial Safety & Hygiene News suggests 5 effective steps to take in the workplace: 1) Establish workplace mental health programs, 2) Encourage mindfulness breaks, 3) Have an open-door policy, 4) Conduct mental health safety training workshops, and 5) Promote health work-life balance.

Companies need to have/implement policies – no checking of email, phone calls or any company business while being away on vacation. The company can wait so we can have the employee back at full capacity upon his/her return from well needed time off.

A Human Resources Director mentioned “I used to be a connected employee. No more – when I am gone on vacation from now on, I will not be taking my cell phone or my laptop. It can wait. If something catastrophic in HR happens, my team knows how to get in touch with me. Short of an employee death or a workplace violence act.”

The trouble during this pandemic is so many people have “worked” during their staycation/vacation. Sadly for many of us, it’s do as we say and not as we do. Poor mental health isn’t sustainable for WFH.

While this pandemic has headed into an economic boom, it could last into 2023. Therefore, right now couldn’t be a better time to start thinking about taking “mental health days” and the mental health’s impact on the human physiology. You cannot perform at your job if your head is operating in a not-so-optimum environment. Mental health days are absolutely real and absolutely necessary. With the way things have changed virtually at every workplace, looking after mental health is equally as important as physical health. It is crucial to have days to unwind and refresh. We are not robots are we are not meant to function 24/7.

Tips on how use your mental health days/breaks wisely:

It is true that when employees take a mental health day, they come back refreshed and more creative. Giving permission for yourself to relax and do something outside of work resets your brain for new thoughts, ideas, and promotes energy.

It seems that unfortunately for minimum wage workers and many essential workers, mental health days do not exist. These workers are spending so much time prioritizing the needs of the community, but they need to prioritize themselves first in order to better provide for the community. We need advocacy for more sick day pay to include mental health for this population. Labor laws must change to acknowledge mental health as a priority — to be inclusive to minimum wage workers as well as other worker segments.
Illness is NOT an opportunity to get caught up or ahead. It is the way our bodies speak to us to indicate something is amiss and requires attention.

In addition, many managers need to remember to encourage their employees to take vacation time. It is also the employee’s responsibility, but during this period of working remotely, it seems like a lot of folks forget to take breaks, and others who do — end up feeling guilty when they see their colleagues not taking vacations or days off. Management needs to keep making it clear that if you are entitled to time off, take it. No ramifications.

It is okay to ask yourself the question, “Am I OK?” everyday. If you cannot say yes to that, then you cannot expect yourself to be able to be productive and be your best self at work. It is okay to let colleagues know as well. To have that support system and to be okay with putting yourself first is so important. It needs to be normalized, as so many workers have that temptation to work from bed.

This is a reminder that we all must set our mental health as a priority everyday. Do not forget the Out of Office message. With so many working from home in this past year, it is imperative to take relief breaks throughout the day. Just as in the workplace, we can push ourselves too long and experience burnout.
More people nowadays, took a pandemic to realize and be more aware, of both the greater need for mental health days, the working de-stigmatization of it, and knowing that we all have days where our minds are tired — and it’s worse for folks with long lasting mental health issues.

We are living in a time where the normalization of mental health is starting to gain traction. Health is holistic. It encompasses not only the physical but the mental, emotional, psychological, spiritual and financial components of individuals.

Below, NetQuote surveyed 1,012 Full-Time American Employees about their mental health.

The Remote Work World For The Younger Generations

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Now that working from home is a safety measure for the nation, this is a good time to scale tools, resources and people. It is an opportunity to have good, quality work done versus policing when and where. Of course, this cannot be done in all sectors/industries but wherever possible, it should be considered.

This is the time to figure out how everyone, not just future generations but also older generations, experienced and inexperienced can thrive in this rapidly changing labor market. The economy is becoming flatter and stagnant, so that will account for slower growth in many organizations.

It is immensely challenging for new hires and job seekers to make connections, regardless of age. And this especially applies to folks who are left with increased childcare responsibilities due to COVID-19 mandated school closures. With this new structure of a global online presence, everything has to be scheduled and pre-planned, including opportunities needed to socialize.

Now, how will this affect the Generation Z? Young individuals typically like to socialize and enjoy being around other individuals. However, the remote learning is causing a massive isolation — leaving them feeling stranded and lost with no plans or road map to guide them. We are losing teenagers to increased depression and suicidal rates as this is affecting their mental health.

Generally, it is hard to fathom a majority of individuals at age, to thrive in the “new normal”. We are humans that are wired for connecting/interacting face-to-face. Young individuals are grown into a highly connected and social interactive environment. The fully shifted remote work and learning can create a regimented, limiting experience for all. Feeling less connected may drive self-initiative and self reliance further and faster.

However in a way, Generation Z’s are able to thrive during this time with their digital literacy as they have grown up surrounded by technology which shows that they are capable of and more equipped for remote work, networking and learning.

For 2020 graduates — they might be able to handle this new normal of remote and digital based working, but many do not have jobs yet and are still struggling to find them. But why? Remote work can present so many opportunities and open up roles for those who do not need to be locate in that specific region to work there. However, it seems that many employers are still hiring based on a candidate’s competencies, abilities and talents rather than where they are physically located. This poses a disadvantage for recent grads with limited to no experience, since this limits their options.

A Gen Z student (’97) who has recently graduated from Hunter College, City University of New York on May 2020 says, “Upon my graduation, I recently enrolled into this program called COOP in which it is geared toward finding employment for people, and I have recognized that it is more difficult now to find a job than it might have been before. A lot of places have let their employees go, and/or started hiring freezes as well as promotional freezes. Other than that, you also have the consequence of having to do everything from home and I don’t personally live in the most ideal environment for working from home, as I imagine that this is the same for many others too.”

He argues that this remote work option is affecting him and individuals his age because they are hiring selectively based on experience/skills. “A lot of organizations will recognize that they don’t actually need as much office space as they currently have, so many places will be inclined to keep the WFH model or at least offer it as an alternative. This means you can apply to more jobs now than you might have been able to before since you won’t be limited geographically. However, this also creates more competition for every job seeker out there because we want to take this opportunity to be challenged and learn something new — but the job descriptions say otherwise. It seems like they do not want to welcome this opportunity to recent grads like us.”

The job search process has been increasingly overwhelming and stressful for young generations, however don’t lose motivation, or quit. Job seekers often give up easily. Remember why you started in the first place. Your purpose in life is to find your purpose. Stay patient and trust the journey that you’re taking. You will eventually get a job.

Your age doesn’t matter. It’s your energy and determination.

Cordia Harrington, Founder and CEO of The Bakery Cos

Going forward, employers need to implement new ways to reduce the risk of digital overwhelm and effective onboarding for new hires. They should provide a framework for remote work to help the younger generations adapt to the environment. This has to be taught instead of expecting them to find their own rhythm and process — and to do this, the employer needs to invest in those supportive tools, channels and a structured plan in place to enhance collaboration and communication.

The Importance of Compensation Components

Image via Lynda

Compensation and benefits are one of the most important components in the workplace. The significance of this leads to better retention rates within the company. In a career standpoint, better pay and better benefits leads to job satisfaction.

However, many employers shy away from compensation and benefits and this topic should be discussed more comfortably and freely between the hiring manager and the employee. Smart employers know that keeping quality employees requires providing the right compensation and benefits package. Compensation includes wages, salaries, bonuses and commission structures. Employers shouldn’t ignore the benefits portion of employee compensation and benefits, because the benefits sweeten employment contracts with the priorities that most employees need.

Top talent may soon be looking elsewhere for opportunities if they do not feel like they are being adequately rewarded.

Christina Lee, SHRM’s researcher for total rewards strategies and project leader of the Employee Job Satisfaction and Engagement (SHRM, 2016) Report

According to Small Business’ resources of Chron, the right compensation and benefits in the workplace results in:

  • Attracting Top Talent
  • Increased Employee Motivation
  • Boost in Employee Loyalty
  • Increased Productivity and Profitability
  • Job Satisfaction So People Stay

There are 4 elements of performance pay:

Image via SHRM
Image via SHRM

Below are some discussion points that global leaders from HR and Talent Acquisition have highlighted, that folks can gain insight from:

  1. Tuition reimbursement for employees and those who have children, plays a huge role in performance pay. Not all employers are willing to provide this benefit because not all have the budget or funding to do so, especially for non-profits. However, this is a huge asset and also a good way to support employee loyalty and retention because this can help their employees continue to further their education in obtaining the necessary knowledge/credentials that can help sharpen their skills while they are performing at their current job.
    Gym membership is also another link to performance pay because in NYC, everyone I am associated with – prioritizes gym and exercise usually before or after work. Finances can one of the main barriers to health for some employees so I think that this can be a barrier that can be removed by allocating employees with that membership as a benefit.
    • Tuition reimbursement is such a draw. I have found that it’s one of the benefits that people like having access to even if they do not ultimately use it.
    • Staying physically fit can fix a host of health issues and keep the cost of health insurance down so it could be a wash or even a cost savings.
  2. Tuition reimbursement is a valuable benefit for both the employee and the employer. The employee has an opportunity to advance and develop their skills while the employee gets the benefit of having a more skilled and potentially more productive employee. This benefit and companies who offer this benefit have shown to produce more highly skilled staff as well as savings on retention, recruitment and turnover. Both the smoking cessation and gym benefits has an impact on performance. Healthier employees are often more productive and statistically spend less time on sick leave. This is an obvious and direct benefit for the employee and an more indirect benefit for the employer.
    • Particularly about tuition, smoking cessation and gym benefits being a benefit to both the individual and the company: Too often they are viewed as a benefit to the employee, but reduced sick time and higher productivity definitely help the company. 
  3. Tuition Reimbursement for Children – Considering the cost of education in Switzerland and the impact on a family spending and quality of life,  then the fact for an organisation to cover fully or partly the school tuition fee for kids will be as a very competitive benefit.
    Quality of CoworkersNowadays more and more employees are seeking for great place to work. Therefore the ranking and selection from future employees to join and current ones to remain, will start  to look or connect with the quality of staff behaviour, skills as much as the  overall in-house work life style and atmosphere.  It is unconsciously the more empowering and rewarding benefit to have and clearly links to much better performance pay than children tuition refund. It is not always about money but rather about sustainable and positive mental health.
  4. The value of job titles should align with performance of expectations set by the company. Addressing job performance is a very common way that leaderships evaluate a candidate on whether they are the right fit for a change in job title or a promotional increase. Having the opportunity to be assigned new job titles is an experiential benefit in the sense that is is an example of recognition, but it also can be part of direct compensation if this job title comes with different pay. Different employees have different values at different times of their lives. If we have an employee who has a strong work value and looks at companies as who the most competitive is and offers the most opportunity for growth, then this employee may put a heavy focus on the value of the job titles when reviewing the benefits of working for one company over another.
    The quality of coworkers can very much so be related to performance pay. Your immediate coworkers may be the people you spend the majority of your work week with. You trust them to get their responsibilities done, to assist you when you need help, to give you feedback and to make the workplace enjoyable. We risk losing good top performers if they don’t feel that connection or value their coworkers. I include managers in this as well. I think a lot of us have heard the phrase “I didn’t quit the job, I quit the manager.” Hearing this from an employee who is leaving the company is very difficult. We have to look at both sides to wonder if the right leader is in place or if this was extenuating circumstances with just this employee. If we don’t have a strong enough leader in the role, we risk the culture being ruined and losing people to competitors who have a better system of finding and placing management. Employees who feel supported, comfortable in talking to their managers and coworkers and seeking help will perform much better without the added stress or insecurity of failing. I think this can be tied into the value of a job title as well. Employees may not only value their own title and the opportunity to grow in title, but they may value the title of their coworkers and managers too. If they feel that a title is too senior or superior related to the behaviors a coworker or manager is displaying, there could be some tension and frustration. I may even argue that the health of the team engagement has one of the biggest impacts on production and performance. We can get honest and true feedback when the the team quality is high. We have people who are qualified for their positions, mutual respect for each other’s job functions and responsibilities and feelings of genuine interest in succeeding. Without a high quality team we run the risk of passive aggressive interactions, office politics, distrust of management and feedback and defense mechanisms to protect our workloads and our emotional well-being.
  5. Tuition reimbursement and gym reimbursement are the ones that stand out to me.  These two are great ways to create an incentive for employees to be productive and also to create a comparative advantage if you are hiring employees with higher education or those with certain certificates to show and/or improve their skill set to keep the talent in house. I also believe that gym reimbursement would encourage a healthier workforce if it’s included as part of the wellness package offered by an organization. Providing gym reimbursement programs could help to link better pay for performance conversations and motivation. Ensuring employees are taking care of their physical health but it also is a great tool to support emotional wellness. If people look and feel good they will produce better results.
  6. Tuition reimbursement for employees is definitely a value added benefit from an organization perspective. This is a common benefit which we have seen in the larger organization, however the medium / small firms do not provide such offers to employees. This kind of benefit helps employees in developing their skills which will help the org to get higher productivity with better revenue / margin from these employees.
    Tuition fee reimbursement for children is most useful for employees in the mid-level of the organizational hierarchy where attrition is the strongest. It can be used as a strong motivation factor to retain talented employees as it also encourages employees to put their children to good schools, which they wouldn’t have been able to afford previously.
    Advancement opportunities motivates employees to choose and certify in the area of their interest. Through this, the organization can drive a culture of learning and innovation. It indirectly opens opportunities for internal job movements and job rotations. When employees are given this sort of flexibility, it reduces attrition in the long run.
  7. Having a smoking cessation program allows and encourages motivated employees to get healthier which decreases costs for the employer. Non-smokers may be more productive as they are less likely to take smoke breaks or to be out sick. However, since not everyone smokes, having this type of program only benefits those that currently smoke.
    Quality of coworkers – Almost everyone, regardless of their position, must work with coworkers at some point. Having a respectful and positive relationship with coworkers can make even a mediocre workplace so much better. Alternatively, you could have a great employer and workplace but having a negative coworker can outweigh those pros and can even affect other aspects of your life.
    • Comparing the two areas above, I think quality of coworkers is the better option for linking pay for performance as this is something that would likely affect more employees and would be a great attribute to attract and retain employees.
  8. As a recruiter, one of the most asked questions I receive from potential hires is the Value of Advancement Opportunities. Employees want to know that they have a future with the organization, and that their work will be considered, appreciated, and rewarded with the possibility of advancement. However, I have also noticed that many candidates are not really interested in probing further. They will ask if there is a career path or opportunity to grow, but it feels as if they are ticking the box, that they have asked the question and if they receive a strong sounding “Yes”,  they move on. They don’t probe further nor do they ask about what their individual career plan would look like, what their milestones would have to be.
    I have also held focus group discussions with current employees and have noticed that female employees feel that they don’t have the same opportunities (in our organization) for career advancement in comparison to our male colleagues (for a number of different reasons but especially because they don’t believe they get the right exposure to executive management). Therefore, career advancement opportunities may be a value that is limited to a specific number of employees and not an opportunity that all employees will feel that they have.
    On the other hand, Value of Job Title is a confirmed pay for performance benefit, because it comes at a specific time and possibly with added benefits and a higher direct pay (on all 4 elements of performance pay). Employee satisfaction would be higher, and organizations can ensure that they look at the performance of their female staff and reward it directly with a higher Job Title. Therefore, job titles are a better pay to performance value than a better advancement opportunity.
    • I work with some organizations where job title is not necessarily reflective of job duties and responsibilities, but because they want to keep the incumbent happy they inflate the job title. Many employees link their satisfaction to the job title, which directly affects productivity levels.
  9. Tuition reimbursement for employee plays a major role in performance pay and is a very valuable benefit for both parties. Having the support of your employer to further your education, whether it be additional degrees or a specialized certification, is an excellent benefit for the employee. It also shows the investment the employer is making in you as they want to assist in sharpening your skills and knowledge increasing your value as an asset to the company.
    Gym membership can be viewed as a positive impact for performance. Gym memberships can be costly and deter employees from joining and participating. Helping overcome that financial obstacle as well as instilling a healthy work environment can improve the mental sharpness of the organization increasing productivity.
  10. Advancement opportunities – Opportunities to advance within a company drives progress within employees. If they know there are opportunities for growth within the company they won’t settle for “good enough” instead they will drive to get better and better at what they do so they can advance within the company. 
    Quality of coworkers – When employees enjoy working with others within their company they are less likely to leave the company. This gives the company an advantage over others who may pay better but have less enjoyable work environments. Since turnover is such a high cost, hiring quality employees, even if it takes longer, is of great benefit to the company. 
    Both of these link to pay for performance in similar ways. Employees who are more satisfied with their work environment work harder and stay longer. However, I would argue that having quality coworkers would eventually prove more beneficial to the company over advancement opportunities. The reason for this is because most people under-perform and leave their companies due to the frustration of the overall company culture. Those who lead form the culture but the employees maintain it. Having a healthy group of workers who maintain a great work environment will lead to more success for the company overall and make it more attractive than other companies within similar spheres of work. Which means less turn-over, more quality hires, and quality work throughout the company. Providing greater service and producing greater results. All because people enjoy working where they are, the culture is one of working hard and producing quality results, and the workplace is attractive to other quality employees.   
  11. Onsite daycare – the cost of daycare can be very high in some areas. It can also be challenging for parents to find a facility in which they can trust the people to keep their children safe. Once a daycare is found, parents have to take the time to drop off their children before they go to work and leave work early enough to pick up their children at the end of the day. An onsite daycare cuts down the travel time in both directions, employees can easily pick up their children without losing additional work time and they don’t have any out of pocket costs.
    Advancement opportunities – this is particularly important for people early in their careers. Employees who have career goals typically want to work for a company where they can advance their skills and experience but stay at a company where that growth is rewarded with a promotion or new role. If they can’t get that in their current organization, they will take that knowledge and experience to another company which is a huge loss to their current employer.
    Both of these benefits really tie into the place where someone is in their life. Typically, someone in their 20s or early 30s is most concerned bout getting to a certain place in his/her career before they settle down and start a family. Someone with a family, may be more likely to have achieved a management level or higher role and is looking to maximize their time at work and with their families and may prefer the daycare benefit. The most important thing to consider is what’s important to YOUR group of employees. What is the current demographic and how do you align your benefits strategy to that? As the demographic changes, how do you adapt that to where your employees are in their lives at that point in time.
  12. A huge part of someone’s performance is tied to their mental health, and a huge part of mental health is physical health – gym membership. Gyms and trainers can be incredibly pricey, but if you offer your employees cheaper options, they’re more likely to exercise and, in turn, be even more productive at work. This is something most people would take advantage of in a company, so people would really appreciate this
    onsite daycare, even more so than a gym membership, would do a LOT of employees a lot of good. There are so many people that are kept from corporate jobs because they have children and can’t afford child care. If a company offers child care at their facility, employees can bring their children with them to work and ensure they are safe and taken care of all day, worry free. This will allow them to focus on their job rather than the financial burdens of child care. This is something people would easily accept a job for, all else being equal or even close. Though gym memberships would go a long way, on site child care would be the most powerful thing that a company could offer with regard to pay for performance over time.
  13. Tuition reimbursement for children and quality of coworkers are tied for me. It’s hard to say which of these two would hold more water in linking pay for performance. I think it depends on an individual’s value and may also be influenced by different generations. For example, quality of coworkers might appeal more to Millennial employees, while tuition reimbursement for children may be more of a benefit to Gen X.
  14. Tuition reimbursement for employees is an incentive to promote further education and training, which is why it links to pay for performance. It incorporates the will to improve and strive to become better.
    Advanced job title relates to pay for performance since the title indicates to third parties which responsibility an employee has, and since most people want to live up to expectations held about them, it motivates to fulfill said expectations. Since with an advanced title, usually the salary advances as well, the title can also be seen as blended benefit and not purely experiential one.
  15. Advancement opportunities and onsite daycare are the two components that I would like to pick.
    I believe advancement opportunities offer a more direct co-relation to greater performance as one can be clear that better and greater performance can lead towards career growth and there is scope for the individual to then earn more and as a result improve the overall quality of life.
    Onsite daycare on the other hand is a more here and now benefit, which might not be applicable to all employees and hence has a limited scope in influencing performance of all employees.
  16. Tuition Reimbursement for Employees – Providing this benefit allows employers to develop top performers by ensuring they meet education requirements necessary for a promotion. Hiring within and keeping the talent in-house versus heading to a competitor.
    Gym Membership – Physically active, healthy employees who feel good are more productive, call in sick less, and contribute to a healthier, more positive work environment. 
  17. Tuition Reimbursement for Children. This is a very interesting point on linking it back to performance pay. In Asia overall, education is critical. The view that the child has to surpass the education of their parents is evident. Therefore for an organization that can provide this children tuition reimbursement, will definitely be highly regarded by the local communities in Asia.
    Value of Job Title. Yes, believe it or not, Job Titles are more important that what the job actually entails in some Asian communities. Therefore there had been ways where more higher perceptions on Job Titles are implemented to unlock this, and had been doing well in inducing performance for some organizations including mine. For example, in my organization, we change the title of “Senior Assistant Brand Manager” into “Brand Lead”; no change in job scope. This has then create a huge shift in perception on the job and making the position more attractive. As millennials said “Job Titles are how we want the external society know us, it is important!”, quoted on one of the FGDs about career in my organization.
  18. Advancement opportunity is something that is equally important to the employee and the employer. An employee who is motivated to develop a successful career path within the organization will be committed to the organization and theoretically, perform at a high level and be super productive. An employer will benefit from the employee’s growth within the company, their institutional knowledge that they develop over time, as well as expanded skills and knowledge. Driving this advancement opportunity with performance pay is a clear method to providing this benefit.  
    Second, job title is important to an employee and fits hand in hand with advancement opportunity. There are companies that will promote an employee in title only, and not link performance pay to it, and others that do link it to a salary increase. Job titles are something employees are proud of and wear as a badge (whether the job title change comes with performance pay or not).  However, without real career  advancement tied to that change in title, including things such as additional responsibilities, direct reports, and future opportunities to strive for, the change in title is meaningless.  Therefore, I believe advancement opportunities can be better linked to performance pay.
  19. Value of job title. Employees value their job title when it is meaningful to the position held. Assigning the correct job title to a position is a basic essential task. A job position with the wrong title can lead employers to many problems like pay inequity, loss of morale, turnover, etc. Employees with the incorrect job title can often be frustrated, lower productivity, and lead them to leave for a “better” opportunity. From my personal experience I can share that my company did not have the title “executive assistant”, when I was hired as an Executive Assistant to the VP Operations and Technology I came onboard with 10 years’ experience as such. At that moment, the company decided to grant the job title of ‘Executive Assistant” to all the administrative personnel working for an executive or a director. Overnight, the administrative assistants were suddenly called “executive assistant”.  This change led the administrative assistants to think that they should be earning a much bigger salary than they were. In practice, they were not fulfilling the role of executive assistants, but administrative assistants. As they start to retire or get new career opportunities elsewhere, we have replaced those positions with true to market executive assistants that do fill the position expectations and are paid according to market. I think that there is no other benefit that can be offered that would better link pay to performance than this one. At the end of the day, the correct title will reflect in a more accurate salary benchmark.
    Value of advancement opportunity and tuition reimbursement. I chose to list these two together for a reason. In an era in which long tenured employees are vanishing from the workplace, people do not wait years to advance to the next position in the same company. This alone, creates a whole host of issues and there is a definite need for employers to find creative ways to entire them to stay. Usually employees stay around 2-5 years with a company and get their next opportunity in a different company. It is very important for a company to show to its employees both: a ladder and a way to prepare for their next career step wherever they go. This way of presenting career advancement would lead a company to attract employees that are eager to learn and advance and help them all at the same time (education and promotion).
  20. I think coworker quality is an undervalued component of the workplace. In trying to create a high-performance culture, which is something my organization is working towards, it is important to incentivize the behaviors you want to encourage. For example, in our production departments, we are beginning to incentivize speed and accuracy. We do this by measuring the output of each contributor and developing goals that are tied to incentives. As we set our expectations, a culture of workers who are fast, accurate, and have high attention to detail will begin to emerge because those who cannot meet those expectations will not succeed. Employees who do meet those expectations will begin to hold each other accountable and measure their output against others (as employees are already constantly looking at their own performance in contrast to others). Thus, working alongside others who understand and work toward the high-performance culture will create more job satisfaction and will increase the overall compensation.
    The value of tuition reimbursement could be a great component of pay for performance. Tuition reimbursement could be a benefit offered based on tenure, on sales goals, on overall performance evaluation ratings, or any number of other achievements or competencies. We live in a highly individualistic culture, so rewards based on an individual’s contributions against a benchmark instead of those rated against the performance of others could be a more successful pay for performance model than the standard production output incentives.
  21. Onsite daycare is a very valuable benefit. Especially being a mother myself, I truly believe this can have a great impact on employees. Having to travel across town to take your kids to daycare and try and make it back to work on time can get really stressful. Offering this benefit to your employees really shows an organization’s support for its employees which can then increase employee loyalty. 
    Tuition reimbursement for employees is also a very valuable benefit to offer to employees. I have noticed that not all employees take advantage of this, but I think just having it as a benefit says a lot about a company. My company offers this benefit and it has allowed me to take paid HR courses.
  22. Onsite Daycare – Access to childcare is a major factor for families when considering employment opportunities as well as pay. Having onsite daycare eliminates that worry and may even result in an individual either choosing one company over another OR accepting a lower salary because the convenience of the onsite daycare outweighs the discrepancy in pay. 
    Gym Membership – Gym memberships are definitely linked to performance pay as it is an extra expense a lot of people have every month. If this was something that was paid for by a company as an added benefit it is one less thing that the individual has to pay for and similar to my argument above it may result in someone choosing one company over another OR accepting a lower salary. 
    I think choosing which component is better linked to pay for performance depends on the target audience. For example, if a company was trying to recruit a lot of younger college graduates then the gym membership may be more valuable to them than onsite daycare. Personally, the onsite daycare is more appealing for me because I know the monetary value of daycare is much higher than a gym membership. 

How To Combat Impostor Syndrome

Image via UnderPinned

“I just got this job by luck, I feel like I do not belong here.”

“I feel like everyone in my team is smarter than I am.”

“I feel like I’m unable to comprehend anything. I am going to fail.”

Many suffer from impostor syndrome at some point in their lifetime related to the work that they do. Those who are constantly in doubt about their potential, work and success.

Impostor syndrome is very common for individuals who feel like they are never good enough no matter how much they have accomplished, how smart others say they are and how successful they may seem to be. It is never enough for them because they find it hard to accept praise and constantly fear failure. It usually affects their confidence and career growth in the long-term.

❀ Instead of striving for perfection, know that it is OKAY to be imperfect. Accentuate on the value that you bring and be realistic on the goals that you are setting for yourself.

❀ This is easier said than done, but push yourself to work harder to the point where you don’t feel like an imposter. You have to do all the stuff that makes you feel like an imposter in order to not feel like an imposter. Don’t wait until you develop your confidence, because by then it would be too late. Put yourself out there now. Courage comes from taking risks.

❀ If you make mistakes, don’t beat yourself up to it. Take the time to learn from it, and how you can overcome this differently and do so with care – by taking responsibility for your failures. Analyze those mistakes honestly and objectively. Ask yourself the 5 W’s and H on what you did wrong. Map out a plan and practice the skills that will prevent you from repeating the same mistakes.
Failure is only the opportunity to begin again more intelligently.” – Henry Ford

❀ Stop comparing yourself to others. Everyone has their own stories, own strengths and weaknesses.

❀ Aspire to learn from your team members to know more about your role. It is okay to ask for help when you don’t understand. Learn to appreciate constructive criticism because when you don’t ask for help, you are actually putting your team behind. When you ask a question, it will bring more ideas to the table and oftentimes – inquiring leads to better solutions.

“Chances are, acting on what you’ve learned will require the discipline and motivation to change your habits, or to change the way that your team works. Doing so will help you to avoid self-sabotage in the future, and will allow you to reap the rewards and benefits of implementing better work practices.” – according to MindTools

❀ Own your success. You did not get the job by luck. You got the job because the hiring manager saw potential in you. Believe in yourself that you are capable of doing the job. This also means, be more open to saying “YES” to opportunities that come your way. Of course, those who have had impostor syndrome for a very long time, can find it hard to accept new challenges, because they feel that they are not capable or worthy of taking on that challenge. But be mindful that saying ‘yes’ can open many doors for you. Don’t let impostor syndrome shy you away from these growing opportunities.
If someone offers you an amazing opportunity and you are not sure you can do it, say yes. Then learn how to do it later.” – Richard Branson

❀ Let go of that pressure on yourself, let go of your perfectionism and break the ropes on all of that negative talk! Impostor syndrome is often like a devil that manifests as an evil spirit inside one’s mind because all the negative thoughts that are controlling you, can heavily impact your stress and anxiety levels. Be more selfish for your own good and treat yourself with more respect and positivity. Your body is like a temple.

❀ Embrace your feelings, stay kind to yourself and bring positivity to the spotlight! Take it one step at a time and don’t let self-doubt consume you. Let us be guided by facts, not fear.

In a Post-Pandemic World: Best Practices on Improving Virtual Employee Engagement

Looking to better understand how HR and leaders/managers are engaging their teams and keeping morale positive with the COVID-19 pandemic upon us all?
I have outlined some of the best practices for maintaining virtual employee engagement while we are all working from home.

Virtual team building activities are a wonderful engagement tool – such as leading an interesting ice breaker, which can help improve the lack of communication that some colleagues/team members may have, especially since working from home now can be isolating and depressing for many of us. This really helps colleagues spend time together to enjoy and reduce stress.
This is a good tactic for team members, leaders and managers to organize – to drive employee motivation and engagement, and an effective way to get everyone to know each other personally and professionally – and even learn from each other’s innovative ideas.
To ensure its success, during the team meetings (smaller groups), leaders and managers should have each team member take turns to come up with an ice breaker before the next meeting. That way, everyone has a chance to participate and can contribute to something.
In staff meetings (larger groups), leaders and managers should come up with a different kind of virtual activity that will boost everyone’s productivity. It is a great warm up for the brain before getting into serious discussions – such as guessing games like Trivia and Taboo.
The only uncertainty to this approach is settling with the right activity for everyone in the meeting because not every employee will enjoy the game.

Image via Shutterstock
  • Creating an online leeway is also another way of engaging and motivating employees during this time. There should be leisure time for employees where they can discuss freely on non-work related stuff. Remember, we are humans and not robots. We need leisure activities to help us maintain a great work-life balance that will positively impact our mindsets, in such a way where we can invest in our physical and mental health. This also helps employees create a sense of community by reducing the sensation of social distancing.
  • Below are some ideas of virtual leisure activities where employees can network and connect with their teammates on both a personal and professional level. The most popular platforms to host these events would be Zoom or Google Meet.
    ☻ Virtual Lunch Meetings
    ☻ Virtual Wellness Programs (Workout Sessions, Dance Lessons, Yoga/Meditation Classes, Ergonomics, Talent Shows, Karaoke)
    ☻ Virtual Hackathons
    ☻ Virtual Happy Hour
    ☻ Virtual Community Engagement Events
    ☻ Virtual Team Retreats
    ☻ Virtual Zoom Workshops/Organized Discussions
    > Show and Tell: Employees sharing a favorite object/memory and explaining the importance of it to others
    > Interactive training to increase employee development
    > Guess The Person: Employees can quiz their colleagues and figure out who’s who

    Of course, every organization has a different perspective and their own ways of proposing their team building communication tools. For more inspiration and creative ideas that you may want to engage your team members in, check out this article on SnackNation which provides 52 Virtual Team Building Activities To Boost Remote Employee Morale In 2020.

    Virtual office hours can bring employees closer together and connect in real time. You want to first establish a communication tool that works best with your team. The COVID-19 outbreak has forced employees to work from home. This gives them the freedom to work flexibly and stay connected to their work regardless of time and location.
    Clear your schedule and give 3-5 hours a week of your availability to catch up with colleagues to answer any urgent questions/issues that they may have regarding a task/project, OR to just even chat.
    The best team communication tools at the moment that I’ve been hearing are: Slack, Zoom, Cisco Webex, Skype, Trello and Google Meet / Google Hangouts. They are completely free of cost to use and especially beneficial for non-profits. However, there are more resources below that you are not limited to:

    The 15 Best Internal Communication Tools (via ContactMonkey)
    Best online collaboration software of 2020: paid and free tools for work sharing and communication (via TechRadar)
Image via Shutterstock

Maintain visibility with your supervisors, team, collaborators and upper management. It is crucial to keep them up to date with what you are working on since there is no micromanagement when working from home. It isn’t as easy as those days where your supervisor was just a cubicle away from you and can come to check in on you whenever convenient. This is a good way to maintain effective communication (face-to-face via Zoom) – not only in staying up to date with team projects, tasks and meeting deadlines, but this also gives supervisors a chance to track your progress and be there to guide you on whatever challenges you may have. The key to a robust workforce and effective employee engagement is to ensure that their contributions and industriousness are being acknowledged. Recognizing their hard work and achievements, propels and motivates employees in delivering the best results.

Image via Shutterstock

Watch your tone (especially when you are not communicating face-to-face).
One of the biggest drawbacks of written communication is miscommunication. This can trigger misunderstandings and misinterpretations between the sender (you) and the recipient (them). Normally, many of us use visual and verbal cues when communicating face-to-face, which adds meaning to the things we say – and that includes our body languages, hand gestures and facial expressions. However, since everything has shifted to remote work, the lack of these signals can cause our messages to come across as rude or something that we did not intend it to be. We should be mindful that as we are emailing others, it can be helpful to humanize and illuminate the tone of these messages through our clarifications. I suggest that adding a smiley face emoji and starting off the email with a warm tone such as, “I hope this email finds you, your coworkers and your loved ones safe and well during these uncertain times” can really lighten up the mood of a message.

Start a blog and create weekly posts. RECOGNITION. Highlight employee achievements. Include employee and client testimonials and stories. This does not only promote employer branding and visibility, but this is also the main strategy in maintaining employee retention as it makes them feel more connected to their organization. According to Impraise, when a manager takes time to regularly demonstrate gratitude and appreciation for an employee’s accomplishments it can motivate, engage, and reinforce positive behaviors and outcomes. Similarly, with the rise of project teams and more collaborative workplaces, it’s also important to create a culture where positive peer feedback is exchanged amongst the people you work most closely with.

Last but not least, please don’t forget to take mini breaks, short walks and practice on self-care. It is super important for all of us to catch up on self-care during times like this. It is okay to give yourself permission to pause and clear up your mind. Remember, it is not selfish to take the time for yourself.

… If you feel “burnout” setting in, if you feel demoralized and exhausted, it is best, for the sake of everyone, to withdraw and restore yourself.

Dalai Lama

Diversity and Inclusion Should Not Only Exist In The Workplace, But In Our Everyday Life

Due to recent events, I would like to focus on diversity and inclusion for today’s blog post as a way of spreading the importance and raising awareness of becoming more conscious of our thoughts and actions, to wake up to our privileges to handle unconscious bias.

Diversity and inclusion is a company’s mission, strategies, and practices to support a diverse workplace and leverage the effects of diversity to achieve a competitive business advantage.

While the world of human resources has a powerful role to play in tackling and controlling both overt and covert racism across our workforce communities and organizations, what’s more important is that one’s actions begins with how one is raised and taught.

This dispiriting event has reminded our NYC workforce communities and human services organizations to redouble their efforts by:

  • Molding & building an internal workplace culture and environment where we can all intently listen and offer the support that provides an additional space of comfort, as well as extending our grace to staff and job seekers of color
  • Supporting employer partners, community partners, funders, donors in taking bold and pivotal actions on equity and inclusion by hiring and promoting more diverse candidates
  • Participating with our partners to further learn, support, educate, guide, engage others and to do more than just nation together
Image from Global Village Space’s article
They have a very thorough article below that I encourage folks to check out.

What Top Leaders Get About the Importance of Diversity in the Workplace

While others continue to protest across the country due to the Black Lives Matter movement and the recent tragic death of George Floyd, this is a first instance of true crisis in the country.

As we are all aware, racism has always been an issue – in addition to inequality and injustice running deep in America. Humans have always been here to belong. However, for many decades, our country has always been culturally and innately diverse due to the large parts of immigrant population that makes up America’s cultural heritage. But then, why does this issue still subsist?

How can we move forward, let alone escape from our past if we don’t learn and acknowledge from our history?

Michelle Chen

In my opinion, it is due to the way we are raised and taught, and the individuals that we surround ourselves with, and the lack of understanding of another individual’s experience and the history behind it. Many do not recognize their privilege to speak up for the community, which seems to be the focal point of the rising issue. So what can we do? We can all teach America to be better by educating our folks to not be selective with anti-racism and to learn the history behind it. Unless we have faced racial injustice, we will never truly understand what the black community has endured.

When will we learn? When will the people of the world get up and say, enough is enough. God created us for fellowship. God created us so that we should form the human family, existing together because we were made for one another.

Desmond Tutu

When something happens in the world that is wrong, don’t try to move on with your life like it is right. The voice within you that says “This is not okay” is a direct call from the basic goodness of your spirit. Pick it up. Every time. Pick it up. And stay on the line until you figure out to to help.

Cleo Wade, Where to Begin: A Small Book about Your Power to Create Big Change in Our Crazy World

We need to stand up and call out discrimination when we see it, in both HR and leadership roles and as individuals. Whether we are in the workplace or outside of the workplace, it is crucial that we are empathetic with each other during these trying times because our colleagues could be facing many challenges that we don’t know about. If the workplace has no empathetic culture, the organization could pose potential risks.

Whatever is planted in our minds, that affects the way we think and act on this issue, we can correct that behavior and intuition whether consciously or unconsciously held. By doing that, we can all seek inspiration from others to engage in the critical importance of these uncomfortable conversations and constantly remind ourselves that we are all equally human. I believe that as a nation, we all should work together in fostering better equality so the generations henceforth may prosper from our choices today. To truly move the diversity and inclusion agenda forward is the only way.

Internal Values and Effective Communication Within the Organization

While everyone is working remotely from home due to the global crisis, it is important that colleagues keep the office culture alive and maintain that effective communication. You want to limit the distractions and practice your daily work routine – such as dressing up for success, and setting your own boundaries. This will definitely reduce procrastination. Most importantly, when you set and prioritize your goals, you can accomplish so much. And this begins with having a dedicated workspace to yourself.

Smarp outlined a very resourceful article that will help improve the Workplace Communication: 20 Ways to Effectively Communicate with Your Employees.

I have also created an infographic below illustrating some of the main points of effective communication because working from home can cause things to drift and we don’t want that. We don’t want miscommunication.

Q & A’s with Colleagues

During this uncertain and unprecedented time, I felt that it is very important to know how your teammates and colleagues are doing emotionally. We are all humans. We are there to support one another and provide feedback.

When talking about improving employee motivation, satisfaction, engagement and productivity, companies have mostly been focusing on employee recognition, feedback and appreciation. However, are we focusing enough on continuous employee communication?

I have gathered some Q&A’s from colleagues regarding how they feel about their current job, which involves their confidence level and their ideal employers. Their names will remain anonymous.

1. What do you enjoy most about your role and the work you do for your organization?

Colleague 1 (Work Readiness Instructor/Mental Health Counselor)
The management for the organization is pretty laid back and doesn’t micromanage. Upper management has an open door policy.

Colleague 2 (Basic Skills Instructor)
What I like best about my current job is having a very considerate and supporting team. As I am a mom with two very young kids, once in a while I might need to switch my teaching time slot with other instructors, and sometimes I might even need to bring my kids to work. My team members are very supportive and have never ever said no to any of my requests.

Colleague 3 (Director of Career and Community Development)
Although not for profit, I enjoy and appreciate the opportunities to learn and grow professionally. I especially appreciate the fact that the work I do focus on ONE goal. Goal of educating, seeking and striving alongside those wanting to achieve self-sufficiency and attain personal/professional growth.

Colleague 4 (Mobile Jobs Program Coordinator)

My colleagues and upper management is what I like best about my job. They fully trust me with any type of work or project that I do and give me the autonomy. In addition, I like the fact that I get to be creative to help people who are in need.

Colleague 5 (Summer Youth Internship Coordinator and Adult Literacy Instructor)
This is my first time working in a non-profit organization. I love the decentralized organizational structure of our organization. It allows me to able to collaborate with and learn from individuals from other departments more easily. Also, it enables me to develop new knowledge and skills in the cross-department tasks.

Colleague 6 (Special Projects Coordinator)

Having worked with non-profits for a long time, I like that my line of work has a real positive impact on people’s lives, and I can work with colleagues who genuinely care about what they do.

2. What do you find in your role and organization that is special and unique and sets apart from other organizations?

Colleague 1 (Work Readiness Instructor/Mental Health Counselor)
The organization has more of a family feel to it. The organizational culture is pretty laid back.

Colleague 2 (Basic Skills Instructor)
This is my first job in the USA, so it is no way for me to make any comparison. But I used to be a Chinese teacher in Hong Kong. Compared to the international school I used to work in HK, our organization doesn’t put too much pressure on me, which is good for a working mom like me. As a teacher in HK, I needed to accomplish many goals during an academic year, such as cover all the teaching contents, meeting all the teaching goals, help students pass exams, etc. In our organization currently, it is quite flexible. I have no pressure in guiding students to pass their college entrance test. I like this stress free working environment.

Colleague 3 (Director of Career and Community Development)
I have deep respect and appreciation for our organization, as it remained a one-service organization for the past 48 years. It’s all about workforce.

Colleague 4 (Mobile Jobs Program Coordinator)
Although, our organization may not be well known. However, in terms of ethics and integrity, I can confidently say that we go out of our way to give help to whoever is in need. We are known to provide jobs for immigrants or people who are having a hard time, but whether it be legal, health, or etc., we go out of our way to successfully navigate for the client so that they can get their needs fulfilled.

Colleague 5 (Summer Youth Internship Coordinator and Adult Literacy Instructor)
Flexible working schedule, caring working environment are two major areas that my current company has done differently from my previous employers.

Colleague 6 (Special Projects Coordinator)
This organization runs with a genuine purpose for the betterment of society, not just rhetoric.

3. How would you tell others about your role or your organization?

Colleague 1 (Work Readiness Instructor/Mental Health Counselor)
Our organization focuses on providing Workforce Development assistance as well as English Language Learning assistance from a Work Preparedness focus.

Colleague 2 (Basic Skills Instructor)
I would say our organization provides employees a very warm, friendly, and home-like working environment. It is a government-funded organization, so don’t expect to have a very competitive pay. But if you want to go to work happily every day, this organization could be one of your choices.

Colleague 3 (Director of Career and Community Development)
I work in an organization that focuses on providing opportunities for new immigrants to obtain a job. We provide basic training/skills so that one can find employment. All programs, events, services we provide reflect required methods/tools necessary for obtaining employment. Wonderful benefit about our work is that; we do not limit our efforts to just new immigrants but to the larger job seeking community of the larger community of NYC and in partnership with 50 plus employers seeking the right candidates daily, monthly and bi-annually with our Queens and Manhattan Job Fairs.

Colleague 4 (Mobile Jobs Program Coordinator)
It doesn’t matter what ethnicity you may be. If you need help, we will always be here to help you out with anything. We try our best to make a great impact for everyone who are in need.

Colleague 5 (Summer Youth Internship Coordinator and Adult Literacy Instructor)
My organization’s aim is to help not only immigrants, but also all individuals to get a better life here in the U.S. It is not only a workforce-training agency, but also a place that feels like home.

Colleague 6 (Special Projects Coordinator)
I would tell them that you should talk to the people who work there. They will really try to help you. They actually care about people.

4. How would you describe your ideal job? What are its qualities and attributes?

Colleague 1 (Work Readiness Instructor/Mental Health Counselor)
A good combination of supervision as well as space to work independently, be creative, a supportive organizational culture (especially from a direct supervisor).

Colleague 2 (Basic Skills Instructor)
A comfortable working environment, friendly and helpful colleagues, supportive employer, stress-free, reasonable pay, commute within 30 minutes as well as being able to further develop my strengths.

Colleague 3 (Director of Career and Community Development)
People focused/caring for the young and the old/raising others up;
Have impact with purpose on the family or the individual;
Cultivate resources from those who have/can afford them and share with those who do not.

Colleague 4 (Mobile Jobs Program Coordinator)
The upper management and core value of the company. Of course high paying salary may be ideal and nice, but if I have to force myself to get up in the morning and go to work, then that is not the ideal job. However, if the colleagues/upper management is making a positive impact in my life, then I value that more than the high paying salary job.

Colleague 5 (Summer Youth Internship Coordinator and Adult Literacy Instructor)
My ideal job would be one that allows me to meet people from all walks of life.

Colleague 6 (Special Projects Coordinator)
When it comes to my ideal job, they must meet the following:
(1) Has positive impact on society
(2) Help me grow as a person
(3) Has a strong sense of community support

5. If you could think of any of the best employers in this field of work, what is it that you value the most from them?

Colleague 1 (Work Readiness Instructor/Mental Health Counselor)
The best employers in my field of work are empathetic, compassionate, knowledgeable, patient teachers as well as leaders, who know how to delegate and show trust to subordinates. The best employers give employees room and space to learn and grow as people and professionals.

Colleague 2 (Basic Skills Instructor)
So far the best employers in this field of work, my favorite part of it is the casual, not-too-strict, kind of home-like working environment they bring to employees. Although dress code has been emphasized later on, the overall ambiance in terms of relationship between employees, between employees and employers, between students and instructors, is still very home-like.

Colleague 3 (Director of Career and Community Development)
What comes to my mind about the best employers in this field of work:
Knowledgeable about the field and committed
Have strong work ethics with ability to work effectively under different situations
Innovative and creative with purpose
Have empathy and respect for those they want to impact
Hard worker with respect for people, rules and regulations 

Colleague 4 (Mobile Jobs Program Coordinator)
The best employer in this field of work allows colleagues be in their own comfort zone due to the flexible work culture and the respect that all staff has for each other.

Colleague 5 (Summer Youth Internship Coordinator and Adult Literacy Instructor)
I am not sure how to define the ‘best’ in the field, but I am pretty sure that the current company that I work in is setting high standards for fellow organizations, which can be seen from our client retention rate and students’ feedback.

Colleague 6 (Special Projects Coordinator)
When I think of the best employers in this field of work, I like that they care about their employees and are honest to their clients.

Now that you’ve made it towards the end, you have learned that all 6 of these colleagues that I have interviewed – desire a comfortable work-life balance culture (that feels at home) where there is no pressure, but also allows the flexibility for each employee to complete their tasks and meet deadlines based on their own pace. They reiterate the fact that they value those employers who care about people and that the work they do should be something that serves their own purpose for the betterment of the organization as well as seeing professional growth in the individual. And this is why communication is very important, as employees need to feel comfortable in speaking up for themselves and voice out. This brings out transparency.

Now, it is your turn to apply yourself with these questions!