By Madhukar Govindaraju, Founder & CEO

The future of work is hybrid, and it is now. 

As we move steadfastly into the hybrid work model, it becomes abundantly clear that this world of work will need new skills and approaches. In the post-pandemic world, organizations will have to re-evaluate the drivers of employee engagement and employee experience since the older drivers of engagement no longer remain valid. 

With the economy ahead promising to be unquestionably different, organizations have to now focus on upskilling initiatives to thrive in this new world order. New skills, processes, working mechanisms, systems of collaboration, team building, and new ways of thinking are the need of the hour. These cannot be addressed with a day-long training program. Developing these new skills to thrive in today’s complex work environment needs focused and continuous learning. Something that organizations can achieve with peer coaching. 

Read: Peer Coaching – The Critical Pillar to Drive Employee Experience and Engagement in Hybrid Workplaces

But how can organizations create a peer coaching culture?

Develop an army of peer coaches

To create a peer coaching culture an organization needs peer coaches. Looking at the employee base and identifying the natural coaches in their midst is the first step. However, often people themselves are unaware of their coaching capabilities. Helping people identify their inherent coaching capabilities assists in identifying peer coaches who can contribute to the organizational learning environment. 

Apart from the ones who are naturally disposed to coaching, organizations can also look at high-performing employees or those employees who show exceptional technical or power skills and coach them to become peer coaches. 

Managers can identify the potential coaches in their teams according to their skills and make them a part of the peer coaching network. Managers themselves can embark on a learning journey and take coaching to become good peer coaches. 

Read: Help your Leaders Transition to a Digital World – Start Peer Coaching Initiatives

Destigmatize asking for help

It is heartening to see that organizations are now paying close attention to their employee’s mental health. With the pandemic pushing employees towards burnout, the conversation around mental health and seeking help to alleviate stressors has become mainstream.

Seeking help has been stigmatized as a sign of weakness for the longest time and it is time to change that.

There are many who are still not sensitized to the unique challenges of their peers. Setting up a peer coaching culture helps in beating stigmas and creates a healthy work environment by educating people on the importance of mental health and the adverse impacts of poor mental health and burnout. Actively identifying toxic behaviors and addressing them, sends out a strong message, that only healthy habits that are conducive to the workplace shall be encouraged. 

Peer coaching helps people become more self-aware by providing contextual information. Since it is a continuous and non-judgmental process, people are more open to receiving feedback. The continuous nature of the program also makes sure that people can circle back to their coaches when they find themselves falling into unhealthy work patterns or ideologies. Proactive support provided by peer coaching makes sure that the behavioral change needed to destigmatize aging concepts is implemented and internalized. 

Promote continuous learning

To develop a peer coaching culture, organizations have to work towards developing a culture that promotes continuous learning. This ties in with the need of the times, where changing business dynamics, a rapidly evolving technology landscape, and the increasing focus on digital transformation demand new skill sets. What is clear is that the pace of change we are experiencing is only going to accelerate in the post-pandemic world. 

The needs of the hybrid workplace also demand the learning of new power skills and the unlearning of certain old methodologies. Organizations that offer avenues to improve their employee’s skill sets by helping them identify their learning needs using contextual data are more likely to see an invested, engaged, and productive workforce. 

Encouraging continuous learning also drives a peer coaching culture as then the workforce is motivated to lean in towards their coaches to seek guidance on how to best navigate their work environments and ensure that they can remain on a growth path. 

Lead by example

Peer coaching can play a big role in helping leaders develop and evolve their leadership styles to suit the hybrid work environment. Managers now have to evolve and become virtual leaders from remote bosses. It is time for organizational leaders to lead by example and leverage peer coaching and become peer coaches themselves to navigate the challenges of this hybrid workplace.

When employees see people of authority encouraging, seeking, and participating in peer coaching, it also prompts them to follow their example. The goal of peer coaching is to help each other find solutions and unlock an individual’s potential to maximize their performance. When employees across the organization see seniors taking the right steps to enhance their performance and learn new behaviors and skills to thrive in the hybrid workplace, they are also motivated to follow the same. The legitimacy that peer coaching gets from leadership involvement helps in establishing a strong peer coaching culture within the organization. 

In Conclusion

With no playbook telling us how to manage these challenging and inexperienced times, developing a peer coaching culture becomes imperative as we go back to work. The workforce today needs understanding, empathy, and support more than ever before to forge ahead in their career paths. Establishing a peer coaching culture in these times gives employees the support that they need to validate and activate knowledge, reduce work-related stressors, identify growth paths and avenues of improvement, and increase engagement. All of these factors contribute towards a healthy and resilient workforce- one that is completely ready to manage the upheavals and uncertainties that the future holds. 

Connect with us to see how our AI-powered coaching platform can help you deliver a robust and thriving coaching culture across your organization. 

By Shalini Ramakrishnan, Director of Product Marketing

Uncertainty – the sure-fire way to breed anxiety and destroy mental health. 

With a pandemic that refuses to abate even after a year, the economic fallout, and a constant need to maintain the ‘always on’ mode, mental health has become a very important topic of conversation.

While enterprises have always been talking about mental health, the pandemic has necessitated the need to get even more focused around this topic, as the workforce battles constant changes in the face of new stressors, safety concerns, and economic challenges. In these uncertain times, providing the right and timely support is imperative to ensure that mental health struggles do not translate into depression and other debilitating conditions.

What really is mental health?

Given the challenging work environment we are operating under, and the cessation of familiar operational models with more hybrid models, focusing on mental health is essential to create an enabling workplace that allows employees to reach their true potential.

There is enough evidence that points out that a high level of mental wellbeing is conducive to productivity. Addressing wellbeing at work can increase productivity by almost 12%

But what is good mental health?

Mental health is the way people think, feel, and respond to situations and circumstances. It is the ability to navigate through life and its ups and downs. People with good mental health can navigate these challenges with resilience and are not ‘thrown’ by sudden or unforeseen situations. They generally have a good sense of purpose and direction and can capably deal with life and workplace challenges. 

How to drive good mental health in the workplace?

Having good mental health helps people play a full part in all the roles we undertake – in the workplace, at home, and in the community. 

The thing about mental health is that it doesn’t stay consistent. It fluctuates as people go through life and circumstances. While good experiences have a positive impact, the hard circumstances and situations, when unresolved, can have a very negative impact. This is because stressors impact personal well-being and overall productivity negatively. Since uncertainty is the only certain thing, employees need the tools to increase their distress tolerance and move ahead with certainty. 

Setting up a Peer Coaching culture in the organization can contribute immensely to bring balance into the workplace and promote the mental wellbeing of the employees. 

Here are a few reasons why Peer Coaching is now imperative in the workplace.

  • Promotes team spirit

Peer coaching can be a valuable tool to promote team spirit. Employees who have undergone tremendous change over the past year are again adjusting to a new hybrid work model. Navigating the hybrid workplace can lead to stress as employees wonder how to build trust bridges and connections that will help them succeed in the workplace. They also need to build new skills to thrive in this new world. 

Skills like willing collaboration, collective commitment, assertive communication are becoming imperative. These skills also bring in more efficiency to the workplace and thereby help in promoting morale.

To navigate this new world of work, employees need new skill sets. While the focus is on technical skills, it is the nuanced behavioral shifts that will help the workforce operate productively and with engagement. Helping them identify the skills needed to operate as a team is essential. 

Peer coaching successfully helps in driving these shifts as it is contextual, non-judgmental, continuous, and helps people acquire the skills that help them manage their work better. This consequently impacts mental health productively as it eliminates the worry corridors that we build to deal with lack of knowledge

  • Improves stress management

All employees now need access to the right people who can help them navigate the new and everyday challenges of the workplace. Lines dividing work and life are blurred adding to tremendous stress into an employee’s life. The absence of social workplace interactions can make problem-solving more challenging. The fear of perceptions can impede people from asking for help when they need it as they might fear being labeled ‘inefficient’ or ‘weak’.

 A peer coaching culture makes sure that organizations are sending a strong message out to their employees. It establishes that along with their productivity, the organization is also invested in their well-being. Organizations need to start talking about mental well-being and establish processes to drive that to help employees see that their interest in mental health is not just to pay lip service to a ‘trend’.

Establishing a peer coaching culture in these times help employees realize and destigmatize a few important things:

  • Everyone is struggling and that is okay
  • With knowledge comes the power to change a situation
  • It is okay to not be okay
  • They have the right support to help them manage their challenges 

When participants develop the skills to address challenges those challenges become the reason for confidence. Peer coaching simply makes sure that employees receive timely help before a challenge becomes a distressing stressor

  • Alleviates coping challenges

Mental health gets severely impacted when people are unable to cope. This can lead to feeling overwhelmed. Poor productivity, missed targets and deadlines, lower output, lesser engagement, etc. are all consequences of feeling overwhelmed. 

Overwhelming also occurs when we do not have the tools to address our challenges or hurdles. The minute we get knowledge, that very minute we begin to feel more confident of ourselves. It gives us the assurance to feel that we can manage the situation.

Access to peer coaches provides employees the avenues to close their skills gaps and address their coping challenges. A peer coach operates as a guide… a person who will always be there to provide support and guidance that will have a positive outcome. Peer coaching affirms that asking for help is not a sign of weakness and thereby organically helps people address their coping challenges.

  • Builds resilience

Establishing peer coaching networks organization-wide can greatly impact employee resilience and push it towards being more positive. Resilience comes from the knowledge that someone has your back, you will get help when you seek it, change and accommodating to change can take time, and change is the only constant.

When people get the tools that deliver enablement at work, it automatically improves their resilience, their capacity to remain resolute, functional, calm, unfazed, and productive during a crisis. While this does not mean that there will be no stress, it can ensure that the stress will not convert into distress and lead to burnout.

In Conclusion 

The good news is that the right support and right working conditions can promote mental wellbeing. When organizations create conducive, supportive, and encouraging work environments, they automatically move towards employee engagement and higher productivity. 

Peer coaching can play a big role in destigmatizing help-seeking and aids in building the right connections that help us navigate this loneliness epidemic that is becoming endemic to our times.

Connect with us to see how our AI-powered coaching platform can help your organization build a strong peer coaching network to drive mental wellbeing in your workplace – remote, on-location, or hybrid.