I have always been fascinated by the care packages advertised on my Instagram feed. While I must admit I have never put one together, I did always consider it a good way to show a friend or family member that you cared. However, the last place I expected a care package to make an appearance was my professional life. Yet as organisations turn their focus on mental health, care packages are quickly gaining popularity in a space that they were likely not originally designed for. I’m not complaining. Who doesn’t like free stuff? And I have to agree, care packages if done right are a fantastic way to boost mental well-being, show your employees you care, improve morale and stay connected.
However, unlike the care packages, you may put together for the military or hospitals, the ones for your employees need to be carefully crafted. What does one put into such a care package? Ask an employee and they will likely say – a bottle of wine and banana bread. While it will definitely help improve the mood temporarily; if it were me, I’d find myself spiralling into a bad mood very quickly after the bottle finishes and sitting by the door waiting for the next. Thus, for just a moment, let’s put those suggestions aside and explore alternatives that will likely be more effective.
Unlike traditional care packages, this today exist in two varieties – digital and physical. Yes, it is possible to digitally send across care packages all over the world if you are worried about the shipping cost trumping the cost of the contents of the package. In the piece, we will discuss a few options for both.
- A note from the organisation: A good care package always comes with a handwritten note. Now while it is ludicrous to imagine writing handwritten notes for every employee in the organisation, a note is still essential. Send a note that mimics a handwritten note in terms of font and content. It is important to mention why you are sending the care package – acknowledge that the way of work is changing and this means different things to each individual. Change is not always comfortable and will everything employees are juggling, you wanted to support them in the journey and hence, here are a few things to remind them that you care. Then talk about why each ingredient made it to the box. This translates the package into more than just free gifts. I recall an online thread where the employees in an organisation hotly debated why they were handed metal cutlery as a part of a conference kit. Take the guessing out of the game.
- A note from the manager: Now while the CEO cannot write a handwritten note to every employee, a manager most definitely can. In fact, this is the opportunity to make the note a little more personalized even if the rest of the box is not. It doesn’t have to be half a page long. A few personalized well-thought-out sentences are often enough. Talk about how you know that the employee is stuck alone, with their partner or two kids. Joke about a particular team incident. Make it different for each team member, use fun stationery and exercise those writing muscles. You may even receive reciprocating thank you calls if done right.
- Subscription services: The best component of a digital care package is often a three to six-month subscription. If feeling generous extend subscriptions for the entire year. However, when I refer to subscription services, I am not referring to Netflix, Hulu or Prime. Look for subscriptions to services that help calm the mind. The obvious options are meditation or wellness apps like Headspace or Calm. However, it could also be to online workout classes. The other set of subscription services that promote well-being are books. Offerings like Kindle Unlimited or Audible can help employees explore a host of books to keep themselves occupied.
- Activities: If you’ve ever spent time with art and craft, you are aware of the therapeutic benefits they provide. Activity books are a great way to involve employees of all skill levels. You do not need to be an ace sketcher to fill an adult colouring book or solve a jigsaw puzzle. You could also wrap in a book with crosswords or Sudoku. I personally own both and spend a fair bit of time most days puzzling the answers. You could also add crayons, art pens and the like into the box just in case your employee does not have them handy to fill in the colouring book. Maybe even add origami paper with instructions.
- Sanitizers & Face masks: A physical care package would hardly be complete without these. A jumbo-sized sanitizer and a couple of cloth face masks will get your employee through a few weeks. Any other time, the face masks may not have been as relevant, however, today these two make for an excellent choice. Add to the box (physical or digital) information on employee assistance program and medical insurance. Often these pieces of information are tucked away in corners of the organisation’s intranet and may not be accessible easily. You could include health check-up vouchers, free consultation with health professionals, and a host of other health benefits.
I have seen organisations add mugs, jackets and other branded goodies into the box that don’t always tie into the concept of a care package. I’d rather include books, tea, coffee and even banana bread into the mix instead. Just keep off the wine maybe.
P.S: This piece was first published here.