What Is Your Team Charter?

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I love springtime. After a long winter, it’s a welcome to bring on the fresh smells, crisp rain, bright flowers and a renewed enthusiasm. 

It’s also a great time to look at a special kind of plan I want you to consider developing.

I was recently chatting with a communications director for a global company. They’re building a brand-new team and asked for my thoughts on best practices to keep up team morale. They’re concerned about their team burning out, and they want to do what they can to ensure they are showing their team that they are prioritizing their well-being.  

I recommended to them, and you, to develop a workplace wellness charter.

If you’re a team of one or a team of 10, you need a set of norms that help set boundaries around work expectations. Such a charter is a short document and shouldn’t be more than one page. 

Some of you might be thinking, “Mark, you’re crazy. There’s no way I can set guardrails around my work. I’m needed 24/7!” 

I disagree. I’m challenging you to establish agreed-upon expectations with your teams. Getting buy-in from your teams will show leadership, demonstrate that you care about their well-being, and ultimately could see a reduction in employee turnover which will positively impact your firm, consultancy or company. 

Things that should be included in such a charter are:

Define work hours.

When I started my career, I received permission from my manager to work from 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Pacific Time, so I could contact media on the East Coast before their deadlines and beat the afternoon traffic when commuting home.

What are the “core” business hours of your company? When is your team expected to be available? Is it 9-11 a.m. and 1-4 p.m., for example, and other times are flexible so team members can make personal arrangements? What are the expectations for working on nights and weekends? Our profession isn’t 9-5, but I’ve witnessed a lot of people burn out because they believe they’re supposed to be available all day, every day. Is that true? Discuss this with your team.

Establish core business days.

I have written and spoken about how we, as PR professionals, are not taking our paid time off. Set guidelines that empower you and your teams to take time off. This isn’t just for in-house and agency teams. Consultants: Consider including your bill of working rights with your clients. 

Have actionable backup plans.

How is your team ensuring that their established schedules and boundaries will be respected? How is your team cross-trained and equipped to effectively back each other up when taking much-deserved time off? How does your team know that their manager will go to bat to ensure time off and boundaries are being respected outside of the team? 

Schedule time on a routine basis to ensure that your team is prepared to cover, not just in the case of emergency, but also so your team can take a guilt-free and well-deserved vacation! 

Set a purpose for scheduling and running meetings.

We are in too many meetings. Many of them are essential; however, too many are nonessential or poorly run. What is your team’s decision process for scheduling, deciding who attends, their role, and preparing them for a successful, strategic, and actionable meeting? Documenting that for your team will go a long way to helping your colleagues reduce burnout. 

Use this charter when onboarding new team members and in the interview process. Are you interviewing prospective candidates? Show them you are thinking about their well-being from day one by showing them this charter.

I’m not asking you to become an HR manager and set formal policies. Make sure that anything that is set up is per your company’s HR policies. All this said, having a plan in place will improve morale and set yourself and your team up for personal and professional success.

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