UBCO professor offers advice to create a flourishing workplace remotely
Many Canadians have been working from home in an effort to help flatten the curve and limit the spread of the COVID-19 virus. Some people have been thriving in their new remote work environment, but there are those who have been experiencing challenges.
As BC begins to cautiously re-open and lift restrictions, many organizations are exploring the potential of employees remaining to work from home on a part-time or even permanent basis.
“Working remotely has greatly changed the workplace dynamic,” says Sabre Cherkowski, Okanagan School of Education director of graduate programs and UBC Okanagan’s Social Sciences and Humanities Researcher of the Year. “Many people have experienced a sense of disconnection and disengagement, but there are still ways we can have a sense of flourishing in this new workspace.”
What does a flourishing work environment look like?
While flourishing may look different to staff members—depending on what makes them feel most valued and connected to their work—we all have the opportunity to contribute to building flourishing environments. Research shows there are three areas we need to keep in check: well-being, leaderful mindsets and adaptive community.
The first considers everyone’s personal well-being. This includes positive emotions, positive relationships and a sense of making a difference.
The second is the creation of an environment where staff are encouraged to communicate openly with colleagues, be creative and respond to conflicts as an opportunity to learn and adapt together.
The third is paying attention to how staff can identify ways that their work contributes to the larger, shared goals of the organization, which provides a greater sense of ownership, engagement and shared leadership.
How can people learn to flourish in a remote workplace?
Flourishing at work is something we move towards and we can learn to notice and build on what works. It is moments of contentment or feeling pleased and proud of our accomplishments, and is deeply tied to relationships at work. Each member of the team will experience ‘flourishing’ in their own ways and that is unique to their circumstances.
As a leader, you have the opportunity to model what it means to grow well-being, moment by moment, and can encourage staff to ask for support as they notice shifts in well-being that may occur as our work continues to shift and change. Learning how to notice and nurture what makes us well, and learning to let go in order to sustain, can become an important, enjoyable and even a playful part of our work routines.
What are some practices you can do to enhance your workplace well-being while working from home?
Take opportunities each day to make space and time for what matters to you in your work. There are likely tasks that you dread doing and others that you love. Try making a schedule of your week and ensure you make time for what you love. As the week goes on, pay attention during these moments and savour them. Reflect on them later during the week and remember what you enjoyed in that work time.
Be similarly purposeful in looking for ways to engage your strengths in your work. Talk to your supervisor if there is a project that you would like to work on, or if you have an idea for something that might fulfil a need in the organization.
Find ways to enjoy time with your colleagues, laugh, relax and share ups and downs. Try to schedule a regular virtual happy hour after work or a casual lunch-time phone chat.
Reflect on what is working well for you. As you pay attention to these moments and experiences, you may find that more and more of them are cropping up in your reflections. You may want to try journaling to keep track of how your thoughts, feelings and experiences are evolving over time.
What are some ways we can engage with our colleagues in this new environment?
Find time to connect and be present with colleagues online. Acknowledge their accomplishments and celebrate successes, even small ones.
One easy activity you can do with your team through a virtual meeting platform, is to ask each of them to write down moments when they and their colleagues are engaged and having fun at work, and things that they’re often grateful for at the end of each workday
Allow some time for reflection and then have everyone share their observations, reflect on the conditions that seemed to make these experiences possible, and discuss how the team might support each other toward experiencing more of these moments in your work together.
During these times, it may feel as though the ground you’re standing on is slipping away. I always encourage people to try to see this as an opportunity for new learning, connection and renewal.