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Removing Stress and Anxiety by Writing the Unwritten Rules

Jan 31, 2022

Business leaders, take a few minutes to reminisce about your first week at your current or last job. Ask yourself: What could have been communicated to me during my first week to reduce my stress and anxiety during my job?

Now, step into the shoes of those external or internal candidates you want to bring to your team.

Ask yourself: What can I communicate to them now to help reduce their stress and anxiety?

One way to do so is to develop a workplace wellness charter.

 Whether you’re working with a team of two or a department of hundreds, a set of norms helps create boundaries around work expectations. Such a charter is a short document and should be no more than one page.

Some of you might be thinking, “Mark, you’re crazy. There’s no way I can set guardrails around my work. I’m needed 24/7!”

I disagree. I’m challenging you to establish agreed-upon expectations with your team. Getting buy-in from your team will show leadership, demonstrate you care about their well-being, and ultimately could see a reduction in employee turnover, which will positively impact your company.

Topics to address in a charter include:

Creating a clear definition of “work hours.”

When I started my public relations career, I received permission from my manager to work from 7:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Pacific Time, so I could call media on the east coast before their deadlines and beat the afternoon traffic when commuting home.

What are the “core” business hours of your company? When should your team be expected to be available? For example, is it 9:00-11:00 a.m. and 1:00-4:00 p.m., and other times are flexible so team members can make personal arrangements to go to the doctor, pick up their children from school and eat lunch? What are the expectations for working on nights and weekends? Our profession isn’t 9:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m., but I’ve witnessed many people burnout because they believe they’re supposed to be available all day, every day. Are we genuinely available 24/7? Of course not, so discuss this with your team.

Establishing your core business days.

We are not taking our earned paid time off. Set guidelines to empower you and your team to take time off.

This message isn’t just for in-house and agency teams. Consultants, consider including your bill of working rights with your clients. One consultant told me they write in their contracts with clients they will not work between Christmas and the New Year. A great idea!

Building an actionable back-up plan.

How is your team ensuring their established schedules and boundaries will be respected? How is your team cross-trained and equipped to effectively back each other up when taking much-deserved time off? How does your team know their manager will ensure time off and boundaries are respected outside of the team? Make sure there is time scheduled on a routine basis to ensure your team is prepared to cover, not just in the case of emergency but also so your team can take guilt-free and well-deserved vacations!

Forming a defined purpose for scheduling and running meetings.

We are in too many meetings. Many are essential but too many are nonessential or poorly run. What is your team’s decision process for scheduling, deciding who attends, their role, and preparing them for a successful, strategic, and actionable meeting? Documenting this purpose for your team will go a long way to helping your colleagues reduce burnout.

Use this charter when onboarding new team members and in the interview process. Are you interviewing prospective candidates? Show them you are thinking about their well-being from day one by showing them this charter.

Finally, I’m not asking you to set formal policies. Make sure this is in concert with your company’s HR policies. Having a charter in place will improve morale and set yourself and your team up for personal and professional success.

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