DON'T PANIC: 5 tips to help improve employee well-being via IM

We're sharing some of the best practices we've used over the years to effectively run Cerulean Studios as a largely remote company.

The global effort to control the spread of COVID-19 means the number of people now working from home is rising every day. If you’re a manager, organizing and motivating your team during this difficult time is more challenging than ever. Yes, logistics matter, but so does employee well-being and resilience. So how do you balance your remote management priorities and support your colleagues from afar?

We’re of the firm belief that if you don’t have anything helpful to add, don’t contribute unnecessary noise to a conversation. That said, we have spent two decades running a largely remote business and we’d like to extend our support, experience and advice -- if you’ll have us!  So here are some of our suggestions for leveraging instant messaging in a way that helps improve employee well-being.

1. Support a daily structure

Many of us have experienced the stress and anxiety that come along with an unstable work schedule.  Diving into the world of remote working with no notice has a lot of employees wondering how on earth to balance their work lives with their personal ones.

Help stabilize your team's work-from-home efforts by sending out regular briefings over IM and by checking in at the same time, either every day or every week.  Even something as simple as a casual "good morning" channel can help remind employees that they're still a part of a team!

2. Buddy up

While some of us are trying to juggle kids and partners with our new home-working reality, others are getting used to a more isolated existence. Consider setting up a buddy system for those team members that live alone and use your instant messaging platform to support it.

Pair people up and make sure that they check in with each other directly on a regular basis – daily is best.

3. Keep it ‘normal’

While the ‘new normal’ feels anything but normal, it’s important that we try to recreate the familiar structures of work for our team members. This is not a bid to hike up productivity, but rather, an effort to support employees who feel anchorless without their routines.

Use IM to get real-time updates on projects, to share files and to encourage teams to continue their collaborations.

4. Get social

While social media might feel exhausting right now, creating a few social groups on your IM platform could boost employee well-being and inject some light relief. Group channels that allow people the space to vent their anxieties or non-work frustrations, as well as share things they’re grateful for, will help. Likewise, funny videos, books and film channels will all support employees to remotely recreate those watercooler moments.

Allow space for casual conversation – more, even, than you would normally. Don’t police IM chit-chat if you can help it. In fact, join in!

5. Share information from reputable sources

Keeping up-to-date with new developments regarding the pandemic is important for reassurance and a sense of perspective. Because social media can be a black hole that impacts mental well-being, consider setting up a channel on your IM platform to share trusted news from reputable sources.

Sharing reputable and rational articles from sources like the World Health Organization and CDC will help everyone keep a level head.

Remember that employee happiness is a long-term gig

Everyone is working hard to get used to significant changes to life and work. As a remote manager, use the tools at your disposal to take the best possible care of your team. There may be things you learn about yourself and your workplace that have a positive impact for the future of your organization. In the meantime, in the words of Douglas Adams:

Douglas AdamsThe Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy“Don’t panic. It’s the first helpful or intelligible thing anybody’s said to me all day.”

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