Although clearly this topic has risen to the top since the rise of a Global Pandemic, it should always be a clear focus for any company who truly value their staff and their personal and workplace needs.
So, since the true extent of Covid19 took its place in our history around this time last year, a lot of focus has been placed on wellbeing in the home whilst working remotely, the effects of being away from a structured environment, amongst colleagues and friends has potentially taken its toll on many UK employees.
WHAT WILL COMPANIES DO GOING FORWARD TO ADAPT TO THE “NEW NORMAL”?
There are many questions as to whether companies will completely change the way they work going forward, having learnt many lessons during the last year regarding some of the benefits of working from home. However, with phrases such as ‘Work will never be the same again’ or ‘Offices could be a thing of the past’ circulating, there begs the question will one arrangement fit all?
Many people love the idea of spending more time in their home office, reducing their commute, and spending valuable time with partners and families. However, what about those longing for a return to their work life before the pandemic? Those that require structure and face to face communication, and feel they learn and grow more in such an environment? A lot of thought needs to go into this subject ahead of the proposed road map to return to “normal life”, not only for employees’ benefits, but for the longer-term health of a company.
Employee wellbeing has become one of the most important topics for leaders and HR managers during the current climate. There had always been a link between wellbeing and productivity with evidence suggesting an impressive return on investment from wellbeing initiatives. It could be argued that this is a time where this has never been of more value to both the employee and the company – so what can you do for your employees?
WHERE TO START:
Start by considering the five pillars of wellbeing and look at ideas to cover each area.
It is so important to consider your organisations support systems for mental health, this helps build resilience for employees, and gives line managers structure on how to manage work-related stress and performance indicators.
As well as ensuring your employees feel 100% safe within their working environments, it is key to ensure their physical wellbeing overall. So, physical health related initiatives e.g., covering gym memberships and providing healthy eating options are areas to be considered if you do not already provide this. Mindsets will be different post lockdown and more help and advice in this area will be a key factor in acknowledging that you are a company who care about your employee’s wellbeing.
This can be a difficult subject for anyone to approach but can often be neglected by organisations. Given the potentially increased financial anxiety that many are likely to see in employees over the next few years, never has this been more important. Employers can have a positive impact on financial wellbeing through initiatives such as financial planning advice and education.
Not an area often thought about, but certainly heightened over the last year. Organisations have a responsibility to ensure their workforce not only has the technology to support their role, but they have been properly upskilled to work as effectively as possible. Perhaps now is also the time to use technology to support your employee’s wellbeing by providing resources for mindfulness and wellbeing as well as training platforms to increase their personal knowledge and potential.
Closely related to emotional wellbeing and mental health is social wellbeing. Isolation is a word we are all now too familiar with and going forward, with the processes of getting employees back to working within an office environment (or not) all these aspects need to be considered. Organisations need to consider individuals, rather than a wider process, inclusion and belonging for everyone is essential. Communication is key here and needs time and effort allocated to it via the HR Team and Line Managers. Remembering that everyone may have been affected very differently during the Pandemic and this needs to be taken into consideration.
WILL EMPLOYEES’ EXPECTATIONS BE HIGHER REGARDING THEIR WELLBEING AT WORK?
Lessons have been truly learnt over the last year on a personal and company ownership level. Everyone had to adapt, from meeting via Zoom, to introducing a variety of communication processes, not only ensuring wellbeing, but that the necessary work deadlines were also being met, under unique circumstances. It would be hard to imagine nobody being mentally affected at some point during recent months in some form or another, and does this mean their expectations from their employers will be higher going forward?
Haven’t we all been through enough? How will my manager, team and company support me during this transition? So many questions that may need answering, and are companies ready to answer them?
All of us have learnt so much about the importance of our own, and other’s mental health and overall wellbeing, if we do not see our employers change or improve their current mindset towards wellbeing now, can we ever trust they would take this seriously enough and would it be somewhere we would choose to stay long term?
WHERE TO START:
An ideal way to find out how each individual employee feels about returning to work in the “new normal” would be to send out a generic survey. This will provide you with a wider sense of how people are feeling and their expectations.
Areas to cover are subjects such as, would you prefer to see more flexible working hours? Would you like to work remotely or within the office, or a mixture, gain better awareness and handling of mental health issues. Are their better approaches to diversity and inclusion, improved parental pay/leave/return to work policies, access to financial education? Other expectations may include emergency childcare support, increased volunteering opportunities, mindfulness, and resilience classes, help with debt management and emergency eldercare support.
Communication is the absolute key to understanding your employee needs and relating back to “not one size fits all” is a good initial approach. As mentioned before, everyone has a different story from the pandemic affect and a survey is an ideal way to gain essential insights into this. The surveys can of course be anonymous, so you are obtaining true results and a base platform as to where to begin your strategy going forward.
WHAT CAN COMPANIES DO TO ENSURE WELLBEING IN THE WORKPLACE NOW?
It is an obvious mantra, but companies really do need to start as they mean to go on. Prior to announcing their plans to return to the office space or their new workplace structure there needs to be excellent communication in terms of plans and timings. What will it mean to both the employer and the employee and why changes may need to be made? Keeping people informed is key to ensuring overall wellbeing and exasperating any anxieties there maybe.
So, what could this plan look like?
- Encourage communication and conversation – How are you? How are you feeling about returning to the office? What makes you happy in the workplace? How can we improve? How can we help YOU?
- Promote Health and Wellbeing regularly, not just once a year. Consider holding events to encourage participation e.g., Walks, Yoga/Pilates in the workplace. Provide full or part gym memberships.
- If you have an internal Canteen, look at the menus and promote healthy eating. If not provide the necessary literature to provide the information.
- Consider in house councillors or the access to councillors, so that people can openly talk about their needs and issues and find resolutions to them.
- Make sure your team are taking necessary breaks and getting fresh air.
- Learn how to connect employees to the right resources, foster a sense of community, and prioritise career growth to support mental health.
- Offer benefits to support wellbeing.
- Educate staff on subjects such as financial, physical, and educational subjects that may benefit them.
- Create a culture that values individual team members and not a plan that “one size fits all”.
- Do not ignore the signs the pressure of work is putting on your employees.
- Remember we are all human and susceptible to changes in our life and circumstances.
- Have a plan that can be adaptable to a variety of situations.
- Communicate your plan well and encourage participation.
WHY WELLBEING IS SO IMPORANT TO COMPANIES
Where does staff wellbeing come on your priority list? Is it above profits and production? If not, then is now an ideal time to consider reviewing your overall benefits plan for your employees?
By ensuring the health and wellbeing of your employees you will see more resilience, energy, and an increase in performance. Healthier and Happier employees who want to work for you and thrive on being the best they can be for you! In simple terms if you give to them, show kindness, care, and encouragement then you will be rewarded. Boosting morale, reducing anxiety and stress levels will help keep your team culture strong.
As well as the above benefits, if your employees see that you care about them as an individual and as a team, they will be more than willing to promote you as a respectable and highly rated employer and this representation alone will hold the highest value in terms of what you stand for as a company and therefore, the strong ethical benefits of your brands or services should follow.