The festival of WordPress
January 22, 2021

This is an archive of the January 2021 event

5 Ways to Build Rest and Health Into Your Employees’ Workflow

Mental health in the workplace is vital to the longevity of your organization. Encouraging mental health isn’t as simple as just recommending breaks or offering paid time off. It takes initiative from leadership to make your every-day work environment healthy and stimulating to mental/emotional health.

I’ll share my experiences seeking mental health in my various workplaces, and delve into specific practices I implemented in our Technical Support team to foster and encourage a healthy work environment.

Speaker: Matt Cromwell

Time: 11:00pm UTC
Region: Oceania
Stage: BOH Stage

Hey everyone. I’m Matt from give WP. And today I have the pleasure of talking with you about five ways to build rest and health and to your employees workflow. this is something that I’m really passionate about because I have to spend a lot of time thinking about how I can make my employees.

Happy  because I appreciate them very, very much. I’m not a mental health expert. I’m not a doctor. and so far I have one career in which I’ve been able to oversee employees. but the thing that makes me good at this thing is just simply that I really appreciate my employees and I want them to be happy.

and that therefore, I spent a lot of time thinking about this and thinking about ways in which I can keep them in our company and I can help make them happy. And I can encourage good things, uh in their day-to-day life. And I can try to do the same for myself even. So this is my opportunity to talk with you about those things.

I’m excited to do it. So here it comes. Tip number one is about having the ability to manage your team’s capacity. this can happen in a wide variety of ways but the most important thing is having tools. Available to you that can tell you the kind of work and how much work that your employees are doing and outputting on a day-to-day basis or maybe on a week to week basis.

I’ll let me give a couple of examples on the technical support side. I give WP I spent quite a bit of time trying to analyze our analytics our support analytics that we have in help scout. because this was able to tell me how many tickets we’re getting every day and how long it takes us to answer those tickets and how many technicians I need to answer the flood of tickets that we get all the time.

and through that experiment, I was able to basically put together some numbers that I could track in a spreadsheet and watch on a week to week basis and see what I call basically our capacity. it’s more or less a formula based on a lot of different metrics within help scout. It’s not perfect, but it is a good way for me to understand the ebbs and flows of technical support and to see when a certain amount of tickets come in, how many technicians we need, or when a certain amount of sales come in, how many tickets is that going to produce for us?

and then be able to estimate when we need to do some new hiring, for example, I’m also able to recognize that our team is maybe taking longer to answer tickets and that sometimes has other causes. like perhaps there are difficult issues that they’re having to debug a lot more often, and that impacts their ability to get their job done.

So being able to watch those types of metrics on a day-to-day basis and adjust and help them to do their job better and be able to hire at the right time. so that we have enough technicians to answer all the tickets is, was really vital to the growth of our support team on the marketing side of things.

we use the sauna for project management and task management. And I have to say personally, like it’s a skill that I’m growing into more and more all the time. nevertheless, it’s our way to be able to have all of the tasks of our team in one place. either in a calendar view or a list view lots of different ways to view all of the different tasks that we’re doing and what it gives me, the ability to do is see What everyone is doing.

And to see if anyone has too much work on their plate, if there’s too many things going out in one week, maybe there’s some of them that we could push to another week or another day, or maybe there’s somebody else who can accomplish those tasks. So that any one person on the marketing team is not overwhelmed with too much work.

if you’ve ever worked overtime at a job, You know how much the extra hours can really crush your personal life or crush your social life. It really crushes your mental energy and your emotional energy working overtime in my mind is very occasionally necessary. like very occasionally usually it’s just because of emergencies that come up or some sort of swell that’s unpredictable.

But if you see that your team is having to work overtime often, I think it is most likely a lack of strategy, lack of planning, a lack of discipline action, and a lack of being able to acknowledge and recognize their capacity. how much can they output in a given week? and how much can you control that so that nobody is doing too much work in any one given week as a leader, as a manager supervisor, that I believe is one of your primary responsibilities is being able to know how much work needs to get done and how much work your team can get done and trying to match those things as much as possible.

and not overwhelm them with too much obligations, too much work, because that is just a mental health drain on the entire team makes everybody feel less successful and enjoy their jobs less.

So getting work done always requires some sort of habit. perhaps your team members, like time blocking or bullet journaling, or even just using post-it notes or to do list however they like getting things done. You as their manager have an opportunity to help encourage positive habits to help get implemented in their day to day routines.

for example, in technical support it’s one of the industries that leads the way in terms of employee churn, meaning. People leave all the time. People quit. We have to hire again, people quit. We have to hire again. There’s a lot of turnover. it’s a hard job and it has a lot of mental and emotional strain as you deal with difficult problems and sometimes really difficult people too.

and he’d do that all day long because I knew that technical support had so much churn. I decided that we needed to do something every day. To help start and end each day in a positive way. So for years now in a technical support, I give WP each technician is encouraged heavily to start the day with what we call mental energy kickoff.

And in the day was what we call decompressed time. Mental energy kickoff is essentially saying, Hey, you have the first 30, 40, maybe 60 minutes of every single day to do something that motivates you to do something. Not related to tickets or customers in particular, but something work-related that you enjoy, maybe it’s reading up on the latest development trends.

Maybe it’s digging into a fun, little plugin issue that you like. maybe it’s building out something locally. That’s going to help you out in your day to day life. Maybe it’s writing online documentation. If you enjoy that whatever. you would like to do that. We’ll get you actually running and moving.

everyone knows that starting the day is sometimes one of the most difficult things to do. so if you jumped straight into answering tickets, it just feels difficult. It’s just like going through mud and it’s going to affect negatively affect your whole day long. So instead of that, Let’s start doing something fun and exciting and interesting still work-related, but something that really provides you with mental energy to make you jump into those tickets with more excitement.

then the other part is decompressed time in chatting with our now head of support Ben Meredith years ago. He and I were talking about how very often at the end of the day especially because we work often at home. We would log off and then it’s time to have dinner with our families maybe.

And over dinner, all we could think about are tickets that aren’t answered or situations that are not quite fixed yet. And we’re not present with our family in any way. And that’s just a mental, emotional burden. So I said let’s start having a habit of the last 30 minutes of the day. Put the tickets away let them rest and instead do something else that helps you wind down and start to turn your mind off.

and that’s decompressed time. And that again, for different employees for different technicians can be different things. There’s lots of different ways to decompress. Sometimes doing documentation at the end of the day is fun. sometimes just going through Slack and making sure you checked all the notifications or checking your email double checking your calendar.

Maybe if you have a, to do list or whatnot, you can clean that up. at the very end of the day, lots of different ways to do work related things that are helpful and productive and efficient. That aren’t a giant, an energy suck, essentially. That’s decompressed time. I think that it applies really well to technical support, both mental energy kickoff and decompress time, but it can work for pretty much anybody.

and it is something that I use as much as I can. as a manager, I am pulled in lots of different directions doing lots of different things, but if I could start my day off doing something that motivates me and in my time at the end of the day, Doing something that lets me turn my mind off so I can actually be present with my family later then I’m definitely ha I’ve definitely had a good day.

in the marketing side of things, it’s a little bit different. We don’t have such a strict schedule that they can be followed every day for different, um folks in the marketing team, but we do do several things that I think are also really relevant. for example, I will often encourage especially our writer, Taylor.

I encourage her often to, to take time off of Slack to turn off notifications and just spend time away focusing and being able to write and be creative and things like that. another one that I I like to do often is just. Encourage folks to do something to read an article. That’s interesting.

Um and I encourage basically to spend time reading the article, think about it see how it how it impacts your day to day work. And then just comment and say, Hey, I read this. And it was really interesting and it made me think about changing this up, changing that up things like that.

These types of. Normal habits that might not be structured into a day-to-day routine, but that, that can’t be done regularly and often can really help lighten the mental burden of of the day. Nothing stresses people out more than failure. A failure though is unavoidable, especially in business in the workplace.

Failure happens all the time regularly. It will happen. You can’t prevent it. So how can we reduce the stress that naturally comes from failure? managers personally. Should be taking responsibility for the failures of the team in many ways, not perhaps individual failures in which somebody did not do their job, but when certain goals or milestones or projects don’t turn out exactly as we intend.

that’s not necessarily the team’s fault very often. I would say most often that is just simply because it maybe wasn’t the right project or it didn’t quite have all the details worked out. And that is the responsibility of leadership. Leadership is supposed to be designing things that are successful and helpful and move towards a certain goal.

And if those goals aren’t reached, it’s not because individual team members failed in any way, they delivered the work that was expected of them, but the project still didn’t meet its goals. Being able to say I was expecting us to get here. We didn’t quite get there together as a team. I think I can figure out a way to change that for the next project.

being able to say. That’s on me. This is a project that we did together and we didn’t quite make it so being able to own that and not shy away from it and being able to take it upon yourself as a leader means that individual employees don’t feel as if. That failure is going to come up in a annual review, for example that brings a lot of mental and emotional stress.

It’s also, I think, a little bit misplaced when you ask them to do specific work and they deliver it, but it still doesn’t reach the result. It’s basically because the work that you’re asked for is not quite as successful as you wanted it to be. but the employee still delivered exactly what you asked of them.

So for it, let’s take an example. If you asked for a specific email to be written for your audience and has a specific subject line or it’s about a certain topic and that email is produced and written and put together and it’s sent out successfully. Everything goes out the way it’s supposed to, and it just doesn’t get enough opens and it doesn’t get enough clicks.

That’s on the request. That’s on the that’s on the leader more than it is on the individual team members. They delivered what you asked. it just didn’t quite meet the Mark. The other part of owning failures is that failures are always opportunities. And you hear this in many places. but it’s important to maintain that mentality with your team that every single failure is an opportunity for growth and learning.

It’s fundamental to good leadership to be able to talk about it that way. and to be able to grow as a person and as a company, you have to be able to take failures as opportunities. when you do that and doing that well with enthusiasm, that takes the stress off of your individual team members.

it’s wow, this did not work out. but while there’s so much to learn here as well, we can do so much better next time, because we know now that is not going to work We know from past experience not to do that kind of landing page that makes it easy next time around. We’re not going to choose to do that.

being able to own that even with enthusiasm really helps to take that mental and emotional burden off of your team, lighten it up and be like we’re in this together. I take the failures on me. we’ll do better for the next one.

One way, make every single project frustrating and not meet expectations is to have a miscommunication or to not be super clear about what is expected of your employees or to even accidentally set different expectations. There’s a really great article on the wall street journal. that’s about how managers often accidentally waste their employees time.

And I’ll make sure that gets shared in one way or another to the folks here at word Fest. Um it’s a great article that talks about how. Sometimes as managers, we say things up into the air saying Oh, I just wish that we could do this or that or the other. And sometimes employees run with those ideas thinking that’s what you want or what you expect.

And then they spend a lot of time doing something that maybe is not actually a real priority. It’s just something that you were thinking of. that’s a vague communication and not clear expectations. being able to say clearly, all right team, this is what we’re working on. And I’m hoping we can get this done by the end of the week.

that would be great. those are clear expectations. Of course, that’s also where task management comes in play, which is related to the tip number one when you have good task management, then those help to make the expectations really clear as well. and when you say, Oh, I don’t like this so much.

but let’s run with it. This is something that I have said myself many times. I have often found that being indecisive in any way whatsoever often means that folks will want to revise because they want to do a good job. They want to meet expectations. and if I’m not super clear in saying that, yeah, this isn’t quite what I want.

that sometimes is the best way to make sure that we’re on the same page. it’s really frustrating and it can be a big mental burden. if you do a lot of work and then find out that, Oh, this is that your your employer says, this is not what I was expecting. this is not what I asked for.

that’s really difficult and really frustrating. and it’s something that I personally have to work on often. it’s it’s difficult to be to be constantly thinking of how your words are being received and being clear. and And not misconstruing what the expectations are.

Tip number five is saving the best for last it’s the most fundamental to all of them. And I call it be the calm you want to see in your team. Or another way to say it is to lead by example. I think being able to implement these types of mental energy habits into your own daily life. It’s one of the most important things of being a good leader that helps to encourage mental health in the workplace.

and you have to be able to lead by example in this way, one way in which, uh managers and leaders often neglect, uh to lead by example is by just taking vacations. They very often are so driven to get stuff done that they neglect taking time off. and I think that sends a bad signal to employees.

they don’t see the value in taking time off if you don’t see it. and Uh the best way to make sure that they are taking the time that they need is to also take the time that you need. And also to, to show that clearly when I take time off we go on family vacations, we go on road trips. I like to share pictures of what we’re doing on the road.

and, uh in our Slack, Group and be able to say, Hey, I’m enjoying my time. this is what life is all about. Enjoying time with family and friends, enjoying nature. we work to live. We don’t live to work. And so when you do take that time off, show it make it clear. I’m enjoying my time.

This is important to me. When I come back, I’m going to hit it even harder than before because I’m going to have the mental energy to do that because I took some time off. also being able to build in rest and mental energy into your daily habits starting with mental energy kickoff, if you can.

And decompress time, if you can, if not, maybe you want to get out to the golf course or for me, I go to the disc golf course, um spent some time during the middle of the day, doing that. If you can. that’s a great thing about working remotely and having a flexible schedule is you could take time in the middle of the day sometimes.

do that, take those liberties and make it clear. Hey gang, I’m going to check out for a couple hours. I’ll be back later. just needed to take some break or. be really public in your Slack team with the types of things you’re doing say, Hey, I’m going to take an hour now to just focus on my breath or I’m going to take an hour now to, to digest the news.

there’s a lot of chaos in the world and maybe we need to just take a break and just digest it and say that and then be able to come back. So it doesn’t overwhelm us throughout the whole day. Being really clear about those things about those habits, I think is a really helpful way to, to show that our mental energy is important and avoiding mental stress is important.

and as much as possible, tried to always keep uneven, demeanor with your team. I think it’s really important that we’re always speaking with respect and with patients and understanding no matter what the topic is, no matter what is going on as much as possible. and that really helps to not add additional burden to your team members as much as possible.

So tip number five, be the calm you want to see in your team. It’s one of the most fundamental ones saving the best for last. Yeah,

so there we have it. Those are my five tips for helping build mental energy and less stress and good health habits into your employees everyday life. I appreciate the opportunity to have this conversation at the moment. It’s a bit one sided, but I hope it is an invitation. for anyone here to reach out to me any way you I’d love to hear from others who are implementing things like this what kind of things have worked for you that have been helpful ways in which you’ve seen these tips actually be really beneficial for your team.

Maybe it increases their productivity and increases their overall job, happiness and satisfaction. ideally it’s also helping you to be a better manager, a better leader. I’d love to hear all about it. so reach out, thank you so much to Dan Mabe Michelle Frechette  and everyone at a Big Orange Heart.

I love this organization and everything that they’re doing for the WordPress space and for mental health in general, it’s been a real blessing to me personally. Thank you all so much. Have a good day.

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