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  Supporting wellbeing efforts in remote working conditions

At Google, (digital) wellbeing has always been an important topic in our daily business. We believe in the power of technology to improve our lives, not distract us from it. In this article, we’ll take a closer look at how you can make sure the wellbeing of everyone in your organization is supported during what could become a lasting shift towards remote work. Through the gathering of insights, innovative experimentation, and several implementation tools.

Gathering insights: the first step for implementing wellbeing strategies

Globally, an increasing number of people are working from home. A study by Global Workplace Analytics (GWA) showed that 88% of the surveyed respondents worked from home during the pandemic, 31% of which already did so before the COVID-19 pandemic. 68% of the respondents reported being very successful in working from home. Among success, enablers were a collaboration with colleagues, a suitable working-at-home environment, and feelings of flexibility. 

The increase in remote workers leads to changes in the office environment. According to Gartner, 74% of CFOs say their company will reduce office space because employees have adapted to working from home. Big tech companies like Twitter and Facebook have already announced that they will allow their employees to work from home indefinitely if they want to.

In shaping such reforms to support remote working, founders must carefully keep employee preferences in mind. Some will have great at-home working circumstances to rely on, while others cannot wait to return to the office. It is key for you as a leader to accommodate both groups. So what can you do? GWA proposes five things: get employee feedback and input, focus on workplace readiness, create a return-to-office plan, identify mid-term changes, and explore long-term workplace strategies. Accommodating both remote- and office workers can be a challenge, but with these insights, you can better prepare for a future where you as a leader can meet the demands of both groups.

Innovative experimentation

Josh Feast, CEO, and co-founder of software company Cogito Corporation, tells Forbes that supervisors are forced to find innovative ways to connect with and manage workers from afar. This can be quite the struggle but it can be accomplished through smart use of technology.

“Supervisors can effectively support employees from a distance, by ensuring their colleagues feel heard and know they are not alone. Exhibiting heightened sensitivity to emotional intelligence – particularly in a time where physical isolation has become a necessity – is vital. Human-to-human connections still matter . . . it’s important to go beyond just mindlessly asking how your employees are doing, especially when supervisors can’t simply pass by desks and wave hello. To ensure everyone feels fully supported – emotionally – supervisors must set up alternate methods of oversight. Fortunately, technology is now more human-aware and can aid us in these efforts to remain connected and lead with empathy.”

Several companies have already started experimenting with strategies to optimize the wellbeing of employees. Some are stimulating employees to take days off or are making sure that the team continues doing activities together, such as a social distance lunch or online games. Others are experimenting with team days, ‘how are you doing’-presentations, or daily stand-ups to test the weather. These initiatives all serve to keep people connected and engaged with the company.

Tools

At Google, we are gathering insights on employee and customer satisfaction through surveys, interviews, and more. Last year, we took to the streets and asked people about the impact of technology on their (digital) wellbeing. Please take a look at the video below:

 

From these insights, tools were developed to specifically target wellbeing. Some example: with Focus mode for Android, apps can be paused to minimize distractions and better focus your time. On Youtube, a ‘take a break’ reminder allows you to set a custom timer on watching your videos. And Google Assistant has features to improve your bedtime routine with the use of voice-powered commands.

When it comes to working environments, especially features for Gmail are interesting. With tools like Autoreply and Priority Inbox, you can spend less time in your inbox. By turning on high-priority notifications, you can limit the number of email alerts that you receive and only get notified when it’s essential. Also, with the ‘draft now, send later’ function, you can draft an email in advance and send it at any time in the future.

Supporting your (digital) wellbeing

In these unusual times, when working from home seems to become the current norm, technology plays a vital role in supporting your business from a distance. Whether through administration, video conferencing, or product development. At Google, we are constantly trying to support the (digital) wellbeing of everyone involved in our company through the use of technology. Our commitment is clear: ‘making sure all of our products support your (digital) wellbeing’.

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