Fair pay, good benefits, and work that aligns well with an employee’s skills are the basic ways employers can show their employees they are valued. But, we all know humans are more complex than that…
Kin’s founder, Craig, once said that “our job as employers, in my opinion, is to mentor employees on their professional path while they discover whatever life has in store for them. That often means reminding one another that work simply isn’t as important as whatever is going on outside of it.” Being that mentor requires getting to know your employees on a deeper level than their productivity at work can show.
What happens at work when we, as employers, value employees as “whole people” with whole lives outside of work? Employees don’t feel the need to leave part of themselves at the door when they come to work, which carves a path for vulnerability, honesty, and enrichment. In turn, employees feel empowered to bring perspective and skills to our workplaces that we might otherwise have squandered.
Here are four ways to foster an environment of “whole employees.”
Be open about diversity and what it means to your workplace
Most workplaces have an equal opportunity statement baked into their handbooks, but do you go beyond a statement to truly embrace diversity and inclusion in the workplace?
The benefits of a diverse and inclusive workplace are vast— from expanding your company’s understanding of different cultures and communities, to better problem solving skills within your teams, and improved relationships and retention.
When you intentionally cultivate an environment where every team member feels included, respected, and embraced, you’re telling your employees that their life experiences are valued and necessary to what they do at work and you recognize the things outside of work that have a profound impact on their lives. This commitment fosters an environment of openness and trust with all of your employees.
Encourage mental health days
Mental health and illness have very broad meanings and cover everything from stress and burnout to depression, anxiety, and other serious medical issues. 40% of adults in the US report struggling with mental illness in 2020, and that statistic is only expected to grow.
In valuing an employee’s whole self, you’re asking an employee to come with all of the ups and all of the downs of being human. Sometimes it’s necessary to step away from work and focus on mental health, and that is OK. Allow your employees to do so if and when needed, no questions asked. Create a policy, independent from vacation time, that outlines how an employee should request a mental health day and follow up with them when they return to check in.
Mental health days are one of many ways to support mental health in your workplace, and help your employees understand that they are valued even when they’re not at their best.
Practice open communication
Open and honest communication is the cornerstone of any good relationship, that includes the one we have with work. The opportunities to strengthen workplace communication are nearly endless.
Open communication creates trust. Employees who feel trusted at work will feel comfortable bringing their ideas and concerns to the table, and will likely share more about their personal lives. Trust is built both ways, so communicate clearly about your company’s mission and objectives to remove uncertainty in your employees’ work.
We’ve seen the benefits of open communication here at Kin— from employees speaking up about their concerns and blockers or ideas, to letting us know that they need to step away for a mental health day or that they were up all night with a sick dog. Employees feel valued knowing they can be honest about work and life.
Acknowledge life outside of work
A workplace that values whole employees inherently knows that an employee has a life outside of work with varying events, interests, and milestones. Recognizing this can be as simple as offering a flexible time-off policy that allows employees to be present for the things that are happening in life, or sending a personalized gift for an employee’s birthday or work anniversary.
Life outside of work isn’t always about celebrating, though. Events outside of work may have an impact on your employees— from a sick family member or death in the family, to mass-shootings, to racially-charged tragedies, to global pandemics, the list goes on… It’s imperative that as an employer we give our employees space to cope with life and recognize the impact that these events can have on an employee’s performance.
Some employees like to focus on work for stability during the busy or uncertain times outside of work, some need to dial back work in order to focus on life. Knowing your employees on a more personal level helps leadership identify what an employee needs when life happens. Openly communicating about it lets employees know that instead of struggling to focus on work, it’s perfectly OK to step away.
Valuing your employees as more than their productivity and salary is a step towards a company culture that employees want to be a part of. What’s more, your business can only thrive from your employees’ life experiences that you openly invite to the table. How does your company show employees they are valued?