- December 12, 2023
New Year’s resolutions get a modern twist in 2024.
By Bruce Horovitz | December 11, 2023
Many of us follow the tradition of making personal resolutions for the new year. But should you also make resolutions for the workplace? A lot of us spend more time in the office than we do at home, so keeping those resolutions could have a huge impact on your quality of life—and, if you’re a manager, on the lives of your staff.
Perhaps now more than ever, we realize just how much current events impact our everyday lives at work. The COVID-19 pandemic brought that home in a huge way, upending the very basics of how—and where—we work. Concurrent upheavals in electoral politics and social movements have likewise seeped into our professional lives, leaving managers to handle new levels of discontent and conflict in the workplace.
Today’s managers say they and their teams are experiencing an unmanageable amount of anxiety and burnout. Taking time to think about practical resolutions that can address and improve employees’ work lives can benefit everyone mentally and emotionally.
Below are five New Year’s resolutions for 2024 that today’s managers should find worth their investment
1. Make the workplace a safe space.
Although this resolution may sound obvious, for too many managers, it’s not obvious enough. Chastity Davis-Garcia, executive vice president of human resources at Amplify, a creator of school curricula based in New York City, says making the office—either onsite or remote—a psychologically safe place is an essential resolution for managers to make.
“Our goal is to lean in to train all managers to help and support their teams,” Davis-Garcia says. Whether it’s employees exchanging their political views or their views on gender identity, middle managers, in particular, can play a role in constructively guiding such conversations in the workplace, she adds, “so that employees can disagree without becoming disagreeable.”
Davis-Garcia says most managers don’t know how to support their employees or navigate sensitive conversations. But they can learn how to do so with proper training. “Managers need to be enabled to foster an environment that creates openness and understanding,” she explains.
The key, Davis-Garcia says, is to train managers how to remain neutral and nonjudgmental, even as they create space for employees to be candid. At Amplify, she says, “We reached out to managers and reminded them that they should be encouraging conversation with [their] employees and regularly checking in.”
2. Demonstrate work/life balance.
While this resolution appears on resolution lists year after year, many managers need a reminder to practice what they preach.
Among other things, maintaining a healthy work/life balance among your team members means proactively enabling them to take time off when they feel they need it. But managers must also demonstrate that balance is a priority in their own lives. “To become compassionate leaders, it’s important to live lives of self-compassion,” Davis-Garcia says.
“I don’t know how to teach compassion, but you can give managers the tools they need to support trust-building for employees to be heard, acknowledged and respected,” she explains, noting that work/life balance is ingrained in the culture at Amplify. For example, Amplify enforces “no meetings Thursdays” so employees can focus on their own work without the continual distraction of meetings.
Davis-Garcia says this concept began during the pandemic, when employees were getting burned out by an endless stream of Zoom meetings. “We realized that a great majority of our workforce was working very hard during a very difficult time,” she explains. So the concept of “no meetings Thursdays” was created, and the company has worked to keep that in place post-pandemic.
Similarly, at Ceridian, a global human capital management software company with co-headquarters in Toronto and Minneapolis, there are no internal meetings on Fridays. The company also recently launched “team refresh” days, during which an entire team takes off at the same time, so no one feels guilty about taking time off while others are working, says Susan Tohyama, Ceridian’s chief human resources officer. Each team gets six to eight of these days annually. “That way you feel less pressure if you know the whole team is off, and you don’t need to worry about checking emails,” Tohyama says.
3. Instill a sense of purpose.
Few things pay off more for a company than instilling a true sense of purpose among its employees. When their employees take pride in what they do, companies cultivate employee engagement, commitment and motivation, says Brad Smith, Ph.D., chief science officer at meQuilibrium, a digital coaching company headquartered in Boston. “We all want to work at a place where we believe our work matters,” Smith says. “It’s important to know that your work is critical to the success of your team, your company and your world.”
When a manager can successfully explain to their employees why their work matters, it can help reduce employee intention to leave their employer by up to 50 percent, according to a recent meQuilibrium report. Having employees with a sense of purpose is critical for all companies—even if managers and executives think their sense of purpose should be obvious to everyone.
Companies that assume their employees can see the bigger picture and their role in it are often surprised when they do not. One global pharmaceutical company that asked meQuilibrium to assess its work environment found a particularly low sense of purpose among employees in its financial division. In response, the company’s leadership clarified for its finance employees the explicit connection between the work they do and the company’s mission to eradicate various illnesses and diseases—helping them take pride in their purpose.
4. Improve employee engagement.
For companies with a remote or hybrid workplace, employee engagement is particularly vital. One way that Ontellus—an online records retrieval company in Houston—does this is by pairing each of their new remote employees with a mentor who is tuned in to the company’s culture, history and procedures. “This way, they know they have someone to reach out to at any time,” says Lori Neal, Ontellus’ senior vice president of human resources.
That initial virtual meeting between new employees and their mentors lasts up to 90 minutes, giving the new hire time to ask questions about anything they want clarified. In addition, Ontellus holds monthly town hall meetings with its 600 employees and offers virtual lunches on a variety of topics that are typically employee-led. “I don’t believe there is such a thing as over-communication,” Neal says.
5. Make AI your ally.
Instead of fearing AI, the leadership at Paycor, a human resource software provider headquartered in Cincinnati, has made a New Year’s resolution to further explore how their employees and clients can use AI as a valuable tool, says Paaras Parker, Paycor’s chief human resources officer.
“To be more comfortable with AI, we have to learn to trust it more,” Parker says. She personally uses ChatGPT to determine which repetitive tasks she may be able to delegate to AI so Paycor’s employees can be freed up to focus on bigger things. Parker says she also anticipates that Paycor can harness AI in ways that will benefit their customers. “The more employees learn to safely play with AI,” she says, “the more we can dream up what we can do for our customers.”
Bruce Horovitz is a freelance writer based in Falls Church, Va.
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