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Dr. Paul White: More Insights on WFH Trends

Dr. Paul White’s Appreciation at Work team has conducted periodic surveys to find out how employees are reacting to the new work-at-home model. In their latest informal survey, they seek to assess the degree to which employees are feeling supported and to find examples of how they are receiving or sharing support. Here are the findings.
The new work-at-home employees they heard from generally feel supported: respondents ranked the level of support they are receiving the number 4 on a 1 to 5 rating. Using open ended questions, the survey also sought to found out the types of support people are noticing. 

Keeping in touch. According to the study, nearly everyone mentioned keeping in touch as important. Video options (Zoom, Skype, FaceTime, Microsoft Team) are preferred but people mention: snail mail, texts, email, phone, social media. One respondent summed it up: “Be visible, reach out often.”

Dr. White says that “staying connected goes beyond work topics and takes many forms: sending and sharing encouraging e-cards or humorous memes, motivational quotes, jokes, favorite TED talks and podcasts, inspirational notes and emails.”

Work talk. People appreciate when managers check in to make sure they have the training and technology to transition to new work-at-home set ups, Dr. White says. Supervisors mention the positive responses they got when they were able to be flexible with expectations, schedules, and outcomes. Discussing topics together such relaxing deadlines when needed, keeping the focus on key projects, and helping team members problem-solve were also examples shared.

Another aspect of “work talk” that comes up multiple times deals with transparency and communication as a way to reduce stress and fears, according to Dr. White. “People appreciate knowing the latest work news—even if it isn’t entirely positive – because it is better than trying to guess what might be coming down the pipeline or listening to rumors.”

Non-work talk. Most people note the importance of talking about things that aren’t work related, Dr. White says. “Even when people are video-conferencing about work, they take time to talk about how they are doing. In fact, many point out that they make sure to start their meetings by asking about each person and sharing how they are and what they’ve been doing outside of their job responsibilities. Some take time to share stories of bright spots in their week or a moment of joy they have experienced.”  He adds that several people mention that they either take time during virtual work meetings or set times to meet virtually outside of regular work meetings to create space for water cooler chats or hallway talks…Keeping this kind of connection helps keep a bit of normalcy and levity in our work relationships. This is a good time, Dr. White says, to acknowledge milestones and birthdays when people are together online.”
Keeping things light. People are making their video meetings more interesting, Dr. White says. Among those mentioned were incorporating music, signs, backgrounds, themes, and costumes. Several respondents like to meet up with coworkers on Zoom (or other platforms) and host dance parties, WFH Bingo, trivia nights, virtual lunches (no work talk allowed), book clubs, happy hours, share shopping tips (where can you get more toilet paper in town?), movies, spirit weeks, and talk about hobbies. One person, he reports, set up times where people could exercise with interested co-workers on-line and another person reports hosting guided meditation.

Caring and checking In. “One of the most important things that we found repeated in answers was listening. Most often mentioned by supervisors, but also suggested by others, is taking the time to be available and listen to each other whether it’s about fears and concerns or they just the need to vent is key in making employees and coworkers feel supported and encouraged.” 

Everybody can be an encourager. Encouragement and support can come from any direction and can be given similarly – to anyone from anyone, Dr. White explains. “Managers and supervisors have been proactive in making sure they are communicating with and taking care of their employees, but their direct reports are also making sure to encourage them. Senior management has stepped in and taken a larger part in staying connected with employees. People feel strengthened in large group meetings, meetings with smaller groups and especially during one-on-one conversations. They feel supported by managers, by those they manage, and by peers. Anyone can give and receive encouragement.” 

Celebrate small wins. Based on the survey feedback, Dr. White recommends, “Keep a positive yet honest attitude. Try to strike a balance between the stress and vulnerability created by our current situation and humor and optimism about the future. Take time to reflect and consider the ways your coworkers have been supporting and encouraging you and also how you might do more to support and encourage them.”

For More Information
Paul White, Ph.D.
President, Appreciation at Work
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