Comfort food is a staple in our society. We know it as the food our parents and grandparents cook. It’s the recipes that have been passed down for generations. The time and the love that is put into it is what makes comfort food so special. Even when you’re not at Mom’s or Grandma’s, comfort food isn’t too difficult to find. It’s similar but never the same.
Growing up in my household, everyone one was on different schedules. My mom works in the city at a law firm and would be there some days for more than 12 hours. My stepdad works for Septa (Philadelphia’s public transit system), so he gets up at 2 a.m., is home by 4 p.m., and is in bed asleep by 6:30 p.m. As a result, I relied on myself to cook dinner on many weekday nights. Saturdays were usually hectic as well, because all the house chores and errands had to be done.
Sunday, however, was our day as a family. My mom would cook and invite my family over to join us. She would pull out her grandmother’s old cookbook and find the perfect comfort food to make for that season.
Finding the right work environment is like finding the perfect comfort food. The people you work with are like the ingredients — if they don’t mix well together your meal won’t taste right. The communication between your team is the bowl you mix all the ingredients together in. If the bowl has a crack things are going to leak through.
The office you work in is your kitchen. If it’s dirty and unorganized, nothing will get done correctly. Mistakes will be made. The understanding and helpfulness you offer is the oven, stove or grill you cook your comfort food with. They provide the last step to ensure your comfort food will be cooked properly and ready to eat.
Like a harmonious work environment, comfort food recipes can take some trial and error to get just right. But once you find the right mix, everything seems to flow. There’s less stress, better interpersonal interactions, and everyone goes home happy.
I just got back from a great conference designed to help graphic designers hone their technical skills and people who run creative agencies (like me) hone their businesses. It was soooo inspirational, I felt almost giddy being there. To my curious, ambitious, and introspective self, it was five days of pure bliss: Traveling with a pack of creatives, hopping from one 45-minute session to the next, learning how to, among other things, apply better process to our practice, design our best lives, and “shut our monkeys” (e.g., quiet that inner voice that says you can’t …).
I felt like a kid in a candy store. I was so excited, that after each session, I wanted, no, I NEEDED to talk about it. But when I looked for someone close by to say, “Wow, wasn’t that awesome??” I was met with this:
We just listened to the genius futurist on the stage predict that, in the not-too-distant future, graphic designers will be designing human tissue instead of websites. Who wants to discuss? Anyone?
Despite my incredibly focused staring or twitching leg, nobody on either side of me EVER looked up. I was starting to feel very alone until I reminded myself of what I tell clients every day – that burying your face in your smart phone is more than just accepted protocol; nowadays, it’s the way of the world. And not just for employees in retail or manufacturing environments, who don’t sit behind a computer. But, apparently, also for people who are sitting practically on top of you in a cramped conference hall.
The bottom line? We all better get used to it and adjust our communications strategies accordingly.
More mobile—that’s the takeaway. If your communications strategy does not holistically include this approach (along with other media, of course), you’re missing the mark. In the quest to meet employees where they are, know that, by all accounts, they’re on their phones and tablets. So you must be there as well.
There are lots of ways to do it:
- Develop a mobile-optimized benefits website
- Push out content and reminders via text
- Create a simple video using a cloud-based platform like Brainshark that’s easily accessible from any device, anywhere
Options like these are worth exploring. Because if you’re waiting for them to look up and pay attention to your traditional communications, you may be waiting for a while. You know what they say: “If you can’t beat them, join them.”
For my part, I took my own advice. By day two I had stopped feeling sorry for myself and started texting with a colleague who was also at the conference. Sure, it wasn’t the same as huddling with the strangers around me—or even meeting someone new—but it did the trick just the same.
As the busy open enrollment season swiftly approaches, for some taking a few deep breaths and bracing ourselves for what’s to come may be warranted. As I start to prepare and accept the stress of planning, crunching and racing against time, I also try to remain focused and tend to the matter at hand – helping to provide an efficient, smooth open enrollment.
During this time, it can be very challenging for employers. After all, open enrollment isn’t exactly a walk in the park—from the deadlines, to questions, to communicating complicated information—tensions rise in the workplace. So, the need to find more positive ways to connect and communicate with your co-workers is essential. One way I’ve discovered to relieve stress and tension at work is laughter.
The months and weeks leading up to open enrollment can be overwhelming and daunting. However, a good way to experience relief from all of the stressors that come with planning, working through numbers and preparing for meetings is to find a way to laugh.
I’ve found that taking the time to tell a funny story or two to a co-worker, or thinking about a situation that made me laugh helps to relieve tension. It can even be as simple as thinking about that hilarious episode of your favorite television show that made you laugh the night before. I even sometimes turn to my Smartphone and tune in to the latest comedy podcasts to take the edge off.
Here’s a great quote I came across by Steve Goodier that really sums it up: “Humor can make a serious difference. In the workplace, at home, in all areas of life – looking for a reason to laugh is necessary. A sense of humor helps us to get through the dull times, cope with the difficult times, enjoy the good times and manage the scary times.”
Let humor and laughter be your passage to surviving your most stressful times of the year. When you’re feeling tense or overwhelmed, stop and think about a funny joke you heard – or just plain and simple – laugh out loud! After all, laughter is known to be the best cure for what ails you.
What makes for great employee benefit communications? The three R’s: Relatability, Resonance, and above all, Readability.
If you think about it, why shouldn’t employees want to read about their benefits programs? After all, their benefits are some of the most important reasons they come to work, right? They sit in a cubicle, drive a truck, make coffee for millennials and executives, bake cupcakes, care for hospital patients—not out of the goodness of their hearts, but to collect a paycheck, get health and perhaps life insurance, and if they’re really lucky, gain a sense of personal fulfillment.
Why shouldn’t they greedily devour every piece of communication you throw at them about the benefits they are entitled to have?
The answer is simple: Readability. Much of the benefits communications we’ve seen—and we’ve seen a lot of them—are just what-the-hell-are-they-talking-about incomprehensible.
Benefits communications are inherently relatable—they’re about me—and inherently resonant—they’re about what I’m getting. So, two obstacles to great communications are already crossed off of the list. All you have to do now is make them halfway readable. And while everyone thinks they can write effectively, unfortunately that is sometimes easier said than done. Further unfortunately, benefits can be complicated, so making them readable is not for the inexperienced or faint of heart.
So it might be time to take a step back and evaluate your current communications with an objective eye. Ask yourself these important questions:
If you were looking at them for the first time, would you have any idea at all what they were about? Would you know what they meant to you?
Do they make sense?
Are they laid out logically?
Does reading them for five minutes make you want to bang your head against the wall?
If you answered “no” to any of the first four questions, and “yes” to the fifth, it might be time for a communications overhaul. Trion’s Communications Practice can help.
The subject of wellness has become increasingly prominent over recent years, particularly in the workplace. The use of the term has sparked conversations and focused efforts on the importance of maintaining overall health and wellness—and for good reason. Corporations and small businesses alike have made it a priority to provide the resources and information to help promote wellness within the workforce, but it’s important to take a step back and think about how you can effectively take care of your employees—not just in terms of their health, but in terms of how you talk to them.
Wellness isn’t just for your employees – it should be considered in all areas, including your employee communications. We applaud you for focusing on your employee’s wellness, but it’s time to spread the love.
How? Perform a biometric screening on your communications! As your employees schedule their annual screenings, arrange the like for your communication strategy. While they track cholesterol levels and ensure necessary vaccines and preventive care services are up-to-date, your team can perform the same type of check-up on your communications plan. Take a little time to assess the effectiveness of your strategy, and keep content fresh and messages relevant. Establish goals for your communication plan, just like employees do with their own wellness, such as rolling out an internal wellness newsletter or increasing attendance at a wellness fair.
Employee benefits are an integral part of your team’s overall well-being, and that should be reflected in the way you communicate them. Help your communications be well with the following tips:
- Be available. Oftentimes employees don’t get their questions answered simply because they don’t know who to ask or how. Ensure that they have the necessary contact information and resources readily available to help your employees navigate open enrollment and other benefits decisions or processes that affect them and their families.
- Follow through. Be attentive and consistent with your communications. Provide periodic reminders, rather than just one-off announcements for important dates and deadlines, and extend your benefits education and information efforts beyond just an open enrollment period or new hire process.
- Get feedback. Provide your employees with an opportunity to share their own thoughts and suggestions. After all, they are the audience your messages need to get to, so check in with them to get an idea of what they think works and doesn’t. Try releasing an electronic survey or even host a focus group over bagels and coffee in the office. (I know in our office, snacks are always a hit!)
- Be open-minded. It’s easy to shy away from change and find yourself (or in this case, your communications strategy) settled into routine practices or recycled content. But, things change and it’s important to recognize that. Your go-to strategy may no longer be the smartest or most effective – take advantage of today’s technology and consider alternate communication channels to successfully reach your audience. (Interested in getting social? Check out these tips)
We know your employees are your number one priority, but make it a point to give your communications a chance to “get well” too!