Date: December 28th, 2017
By: Mila Garrido
The new year can be an important time for many of us as we take the opportunity to press the “invisible universal reset” button. This is especially important if you wish you could have done more for your team this year. A new year is a perfect time to start with fresh ideas that will challenge the status quo. Also, most members of your team will come energized and with a determination and motivation that probably was not there in November or December.
Your task at hand is to set the pace for the entire 2018 and find ways to motivate your team and make them generally more content at work. See these resolutions as a path to take your team to a wonderful happier place, or at least one better than 2017. Remember little tweaks here and there can help your team refocus, reenergize, and guide them in creating positive habits to improve their mindset about work and productivity while creating a healthy work-life balance. There are some not-too-small strategies that you can start thinking about, so you are ready to hit that reset button in 2018.
As I mentioned in Part I of this blog series, promoting and building organization policies that promote the well-being of your team is a powerful strategy to increase your team motivation. Even though this can be challenging at times, it is very important, and consequently, I am placing an emphasis on this here in this post.
Here there are two concrete strategies that you can advocate to implement in your organization to help your team stay motivated:
Work Schedule Flexibility
You and your leadership know that without the right talent your organization’s mission cannot move forward. And in order to attract, and most importantly, retain that talent, you need to work with your team and create a work schedule that suits them. Because let’s not forget, working is not the only thing that we do in our lives. When you have a flexible work schedule, you are not imposing on your team, but rather you are telling them that you trust them and you value their work. Flexible work schedules increase team members’ morale and engagement and reduce incidents of tardiness or absenteeism. Remember, if a team member is agreeing to work two times a week from home or the coffee shop around the corner, they are telling you that they are committed to your organization.
Flexible work schedule allows your team to balance their personal life with work because sometimes things happen and one cannot go to the office. Maybe, your house’s pipes burst or your car was towed overnight or your child broke in hives…whatever might be the reason, flexible work schedule contributes to less stress and burnout among your team members.
Moreover, limiting work to take place within the four walls of your office can stagnate productivity. Sometimes the comfort of your kitchen table facing your favorite flowers is the best place to complete that difficult report due next week, rather than your gray-wall noisy cubical. Teams that have flexible scheduling are more creative and less likely to neglect their duties.
Finally, it would be ideal if we could find all the necessary talent near our office, but that is not always the case. If you allow for flexible work schedules (e.g., teleworking opportunities), you can recruit and maintain talent that is partially or full-time in other parts of the country, or the world for that matter. So, let’s move beyond the traditional nine to five, 40 hours work week and come up with some creative ways to work with our teams.
Take a minute and look around your office; probably, you will see that most members of your team are sitting. We spend numerous hours seating in our offices and conference rooms, sometimes more hours than we actually sleep or spend with our families and friends, so breaking the routine is never a bad idea. An easy and cheap way to do this is by institutionalizing walking meetings. Walking meetings are appropriate for certain types of meetings such as weekly/monthly check-ins with your team or supervisor, decision-making discussions, solution exploration meetings, and when strategizing with your team.
A walking meeting is not a break but rather a meeting that would otherwise take place in your conference room. Think of it as just changing the location plus some added benefits.
- Probably the most obvious benefit is that walking meetings helps to break the “seating cycle” and forces your team to get out of your office. A change of scenery will make your team energized and more alert.
- Honestly, how many members of your team are staring at their laptops or phones while seating in a meeting? Probably many of them. Walking meetings force your team to unplug and consequently, they might be more creative.
- Walking meetings makes us have more blood flow and make our brain more relaxed because certain chemicals are being produced due to the physical activity. This process improves our executive function and cognitive engagement, or in other words, our ability to focus.
- When we are having a meeting around a desk or a table, the organizational hierarchy is evident. During walking meetings, you are side-by-side with your co-worker, and the organizational hierarchy that is typically reinforced by in-office meetings disappear. This causes greater bonding among team members and leadership and makes interactions more like peer-to-peer.
- Walking meetings promote wellness in your team and your organization at large. And some extra physical activity in our lives will not hurt us.
Some tips to remember before starting having walking meetings:
- Build an organizational culture where walking meetings are part of the every-day practice of your organization. Walking meetings should be encouraged and practiced by all staff.
- Develop your own protocol or guidelines for walking meetings to help make it “official” and guide those members of the team who are not familiar with this practice or feel intimidated to feel at ease.
- Keep walking meetings with small groups of 2-5 individuals. When you have larger groups, it can be challenging, though doable with the appropriate preparation.
- Prepare the walking meeting route ahead of time to ensure there are sidewalks or walking paths available. Also, identify spots where you can take a break (e.g., bench, area with nice view, trees) if needed.
- Let people know ahead of time that the meeting will be a walking meeting, so they can wear the appropriate clothing and shoes.
- Be mindful of people’s different walking speeds. It is better to go slower than have a team member running out of breath halfway.
- Enjoy the fresh air and sunlight, and if you are lucky, also some nice sightseeing or a cool end destination.
Stay tuned for Part 3 of this blog series, where I’ll discuss two more concrete strategies for keeping your team motivated: volunteering and “me passes.”
About the Author
Milagros Garrido, MS, Associate Director of Innovation and Research at Healthy Teen Network, is a creative educator committed to helping communities to learn, use, and translate practical and innovative approaches to solve public health issues.