Wellbeing may just be the 2021 Word of the Year. In January we thought we were about to get vaccinated and get back to normal (for better and worse), recovering from our time in pandemic. Instead, 2021 has brought with it a lot of reflection and questions:
- How do you take a break when your office is in your home?
- What does a “connected team” look like when everyone is remote?
- As content strategists who specialize in communication, where does your job end when every part of work involves so much additional communication?
Back in 2015, when I joined Mad*Pow, I reflected on my own wellbeing. Now, six years later, it’s time to revisit.
Wellbeing in 2015
In 2015 I came away with some concrete recommendations for others, which I shared at LavaCon that year. I was coming from three years in a small (five person!) agency, followed by two years contracting for major companies. Going from five people to Fidelity’s 40,000 was a culture shock, to say the least. I imagined it would be a huge workload, but also a large connected team. In my head, Fidelity would be a bigger version of agency life. It wasn’t.
Instead, we spent hours in meetings. Often I felt like we got nothing done. I found three bugbears at the core of the problem:
In spite of the issues we all saw, when asked about solutions people said “it’s not my job”. My recommendation was to set an example. I told content strategists that an integrated team was everyone’s job.
The team was severely overworked, but always running behind. As a result, no one had time for a break. I suggested that people put down their pens and take a walk. Content strategy takes creativity as well as structure. We can’t create if we don’t have time to process.
In an effort to bring the team closer together, managers encouraged “sharing”. But sharing turned to venting, and the team brought one another further down. I recommended finding a friend to vent to who doesn’t work at the company. It’s important to have outlets to improve your own wellbeing, but not within your team.
Six years and a pandemic later, my suggestions have changed.
Wellbeing in 2021
The bugbears are still there. But they look a little different now, with so many people working remotely.
When everyone says “that’s not my job”, the easy answer is to jump in and say “ok, it’s my job.” But when everyone’s working remotely, the other team members don’t see you cleaning up the UX library books, or working on a cross-team style guide. In order to turn a problem from no one’s job to everyone’s job takes more collaboration these days.
So ask yourself and your team:
- How does this problem impact the end-user?
- How does it impact our efficacy as a team?
Typically the answer to one of these will require a solution from multiple teams working together. And (maybe with some help from a RACI chart) one person won’t take on too much of the effort.
The obvious answer to “I’m overworked” is “so take a break”. And yes, there are plenty of useful tips to shut down the laptop at the end of the workday. But sometimes that just makes it pile up tomorrow.
When we can’t see our teams, can’t collaborate, and can’t work through the challenges and celebrate the wins together, work feels like a slog. The solution may not be more time off, but instead content processes that support both the content and larger product teams.
- Does our process have clear deadlines?
- When we complete something, does the team know it?
- Is our process connected to the larger organization’s launches?
A good content strategy doesn’t start and end with content. It starts with business goals, and ends with measurement and iteration.
Cutting back on venting is one way to help a team get out of a pit. But when the world really is on fire, it’s not helpful to play Pollyanna. The real question is: how can you inspire teams that feel overwhelmed or unheard?
First and foremost: listen, if you’re a manager. Or set up an informal group meetup. Allow for some venting, and then brainstorm one small thing that would help.
Often when people don’t feel heard it’s because no one is listening. Taking action on something small is immensely powerful.
A healthy culture is happy culture
No one is going to have a good day every day. But creating a culture where people can talk to each other and feel productive will go a long way. We can’t wish away pandemic. We can’t wait indefinitely to go back to work. But we can work together, in our team culture and in our content strategies.