How Kindness Became our Team’s Wellbeing Program
There are several things that we at Veldhoen + Company are confident about, one of which is our ability to build ‘sticky’ teams. For over three decades, Veldhoen + Company all over the world has managed to build extra special teams that work well together.
In our experience, no two projects are the same and no two clients are alike. To have the ability to support organisations in a multi-faceted manner, we’ve naturally recruited individuals from different backgrounds, skills, and capabilities. In addition to that, we try to find skills like adaptability and shared values such as authenticity and openness.
During COVID-19 lockdown, all of our teams including our Asia Pacific team of around 20 people, had to transition to 100% working remotely. Although we already are an agile team and it was second nature for us to work that way, nothing prepared us for the effects of a pandemic lockdown. Before the lockdown, we had been thinking of ways to work on our team’s wellbeing. When things changed, we had to rethink what the program should be.
Our FIRST thoughts after lockdown started:
- No resources – ‘There is no way we can afford a wellbeing program right now.’
- Limited choices – ‘How are we supposed to genuinely connect as a team without face-to-face interactions?’
- We can’t get help – ‘‘Wellbeing experts’ are still figuring out how to roll out their services in this new normal. How are we going to get professional support?’
Given all these valid limiting thoughts, we had to take a step back and reflect on what wellbeing really means to us.
The things we realised AFTER we looked closer:
- The good things in life are free – ‘Budgets are being cut but do we really need to spend to work on our wellbeing?’
- Abundance of choice – ‘After we had a crack on what wellbeing really meant to us, we found that the areas that we wanted to focus on. Then we noticed that we could identify at least one person in our team who has some sort of expertise or familiarity in that area.’
- Willingness to help – ‘After having a chat and a series of rapid brainstorms, we then had an idea of the skills/passions/experiences that people had, and the willingness to share was very strong. Everyone in the team was willing to offer time to someone in need. It was clear that we may not have professional wellness capabilities in every area of wellbeing, but we do have very talented, skilled and generous team members. We realised that we can get help…from each other.’
And so the journey began with a self-assessment of the individual’s levels of wellbeing in areas that mattered to us: physical, emotional, social, spiritual, intellectual, career, environmental, financial.
Armed with this knowledge, everyone was given access to an online platform where we listed all the ‘offers’ from team members. We aptly refer to this exercise as the Kindness Exchange. Each offer had a description which included areas of wellbeing that can be positively influenced if the offer is claimed. The offers are fun, plenty and diverse loaded with humour, generosity, humility.
Through rapid brainstorms in triads, I could quickly extract valuable offers as we were telling stories about ourselves. For example, Louise from Singapore grew up with a very strict grandmother who would scold her for holding her chopsticks incorrectly. Today, she offers scold-free chopticks training for non-native chopstick users. Shoko from Japan has generously offered to explain the intricacies of Japanese cultural etiquettes for anyone traveling for business or pleasure to Japan. A handful of us have coaching background so we have offers for coaching on career/purpose or simply lending a listening ear. Practical skills surfaced like how to use excel pivot tables, design your home with Google Sketchup, and how to navigate Microsoft Teams.
As we were discussing offers, another element surfaced. Alongside receiving through offers, we found out that we should also make space to ask for support. So our platform ended up having Receive, Ask and Give. This means receive offers, ask for support and give time.
As a wellbeing professional (the building design kind), the biggest learning from this experience is that wellbeing is unique to every person. With wellbeing becoming a buzzword, it is still commonly related to yoga, meditation and drinking lemon water. As organisations, it can be very tempting to go for fun, surface level, cookie-cutter approaches that you may sometimes find in tech-first solutions. As it is with Activity Based Working, a holistic approach will greatly benefit wellbeing programs. At Veldhoen + Company, we look far beyond the measuring/improving/optimising in the areas of physical and mental wellbeing. We look deeper with organisations and consider team connection, purpose, culture, and built environment as the next level of wellbeing programs. Yes, there are myriad to tech tools available to scale the wellbeing program but finding the right recipe unique to an organization still remains to be the more difficult task. Undoubtedly, we are up for the challenge.