If you haven’t caught on by now, the workplace as we know it has forever changed.
Could any of us really have prepared for how much the lack of human connection would impact us? As we shifted the way we work, we quickly realized how critical it is to empathize and support our colleagues and employees.
When the World Health Organization (WHO) declared a pandemic from the rapid spread of the novel coronavirus over a year ago, no one could have imagined the global impact on individuals, families, schools, and businesses. Though we waited with bated breath for the virus to “pass”, it unfortunately became a long-term reality.
While health experts scrambled to reduce the spread of COVID and keep our communities physically healthy, a “second pandemic” from psychological and emotional distress emerged. This health crisis spillover has erupted throughout all workplaces and it cannot be taken lightly. Even OSHA considers stress in the workplace an occupational hazard with costly and even life-threatening injuries. Yikes!
So as we wrap up Stress Awareness Month, we couldn’t think of a better time to hone in on employee health and wellness in the workplace.
How the Pandemic has Changed What Employees Want
When you consider the effects of recent workplace disruptors (ahem...COVID-19), employees are sick of operating in what may feel like a pressure cooker.
As we’ve already seen, this pandemic is ever-changing and quite unpredictable. Work schedules were disrupted when many people adopted a fully remote or hybrid schedule. Employees began working an average of three hours longer each day and boundaries have all but disappeared. It’s no surprise that many employees are seeking out new benefits like flexibility, health, and safety.
But let’s look beyond hand sanitizer and masks for a moment.
While working from home certainly has its perks, this new reality also comes with its own baggage and a full range of other unanticipated realities and responsibilities. Employees no longer have clear-cut hours, they’re working longer days, the demands of “maintaining it all” and the fear of all the unknowns circling the pandemic is a perfect recipe for distress.
There’s a mental health crisis brewing and employee well-being has been put on the back burner for far too long.
How to Create a Healthy Workplace
SHRM found that since the pandemic started, 4 in 10 employees have shown a decreased interest in socializing with friends and have less energy for non-work related activities. More than half perceive that their employers do not care about their well-being, and a massive 72% are experiencing burnout. As leaders, we have to start paying attention to these statistics!
On the flip side, research shows that happy employees are more likely to stay with an employer and show higher levels of productivity. To keep your employees happy, honor the uniqueness in each person. Create diverse rewards and incentives programs that speak to each individual. The more the workplace experience can be personalized the more each person will feel included and know they belong - the perfect recipe to genuine happiness.
By offering benefits that employees want, like support for mental, financial, and social well-being, employees are more inclined to remain with an organization and gain the resilience needed to ride the waves of this ever changing pandemic.
So, how can we create a thriving, resilient, and healthy post-pandemic workplace? Three steps to get you on the right track:
1. Support and equip your managers
2. Evaluate your benefits and perks
3. Take action (doing nothing isn’t an option)
#1 - Support and Equip Your Managers
First, a focus on employee well-being should include intentional conversations with managers and their teams. You don’t know what you don’t know so start by asking questions! Find out what makes your employees tick and how you can best support them. Employees are now re-evaluating their purpose in life, and that includes how they’re feeling about their jobs. As managers navigate the changing dynamics within companies showing a greater focus on well-being, they need to be supported and equipped with the right resources to lead their team during times of crisis.
Here are some tips to get started:
- Review current policies, practices, and benefits so managers know what’s available to them as well as their employees.
- Give managers a reliable feedback system so they can keep connected with how their employees are feeling. Regularly checking in using pulse surveys to stay on track or adjust based on insights will create confidence and security amongst your employees.
- Provide training for your managers on topics like effective leadership strategies, how to recognize their employees, handle workplace accommodation requests, identify signs of burnout, and other aspects of health like safety and wellness.
- Provide helpful resources for managers to share with their employees for mental health. While we want to train our managers to increase their ability to be active listeners and display empathy, the reality is, managers are not therapists.
- Give managers the tools they need to easily up their recognition game. Do they know their employees’ likes, dislikes, strengths, and goals? Do they know when important milestones come up and what’s most important to each member of their team? Do they have a system that tracks all of this information? The most important thing to remember is that each employee is unique and there is no one-size-fits-all approach.
- Encourage a transparent culture where managers can be open and honest about their challenges and wellness, too. Employees will respect leaders more for being human and relatable.
Promoting managers in the absence of training when they are faced with such a great deal of responsibility and influence in a leadership role, is a mistake that impacts both the organization and its employees. Managers who lack compassion, overstep boundaries, lead in the absence of kindness, can be a catalyst for trauma in the workplace. As you promote and delegate more responsibility, look for these qualities to achieve a healthy workplace.
#2 - Rethink Benefits and Perks
It’s critical to understand that employees’ well-being has a significant impact on their productivity. Benefits as part of the “ideal workplace” are getting increasingly more competitive as we transition out of the pandemic. More than half of employees would consider leaving their job for another with a better overall compensation package. So despite the costs, employers need to expand employee benefits beyond health to create a more holistic workplace.
Perks are a great way to get this accomplished! In addition to the necessary health and safety measures in the workplace, some companies have been doing very cool things in the area of wellness for their employees from flexible work arrangements to access to wellness programs.
Here are some ways companies are helping employees combat causative agents of stress:
- Reward based programs for physical activity and goal setting (Accenture)
- Nap rooms to recharge and de-stress (Asana)
- Free executive coaching and monthly workshops (Asana)
- Onsite Zumba and Weight Watchers programs (Draper)
- Onsite health care services (Google)
- Financial advisor resources (Google)
- Onsite recreation center (SAS)
While these are all amazing offerings, some of these may come at a hefty price tag that most organizations are not yet positioned to afford. However, don’t let that be a deterrence from doing something. Some simple wellness initiatives may include, offering an Employee Assistance Program (EAP), providing healthy meals and snacks, allowing designated time for walks and other physical activity, or set days/times to “unplug” to reduce distractions and constant availability for meetings. The opportunities are endless!
Do you know what your employees want? Click HERE to ask them!
# 3 - Take Action
It’s critical that you “walk the talk” - all words and no action are a recipe for disaster. Start with open and honest conversations to uncover what is most important to your employees and share plans that you have right now. These discussions will help pinpoint where you should take action and uncover blind spots that will be important as you redefine the new workplace experience to drive retention and productivity.
Whether this is through new benefits and perks mentioned earlier, re-evaluate your company culture and communication styles, or implement new solutions to support and equip your managers. Here are some suggested steps to take:
- First and foremost, have the conversation. Share your plans and ask your employees for their thoughts and ideas.
- Based on the feedback that you received from your employees, outline the primary challenges, identify solutions, and create goals.
- Establish a team to spearhead and implement the changes.
- Identify a technology solution, like Sparck, to support the change and measure the progress.
- Before launching, communicate the upcoming changes to ensure everyone is aware of the program and its benefits.
- Invite continual feedback and adapt the program as time progresses to ensure it is optimized to meet the needs of those it was designed to benefit.
How Sparck Can Help
Last month we explored how to navigate the human side of HR tech and how the right technology can equip managers to meet their teams where they are. This helps leaders create an employee experience and environment for them to thrive, which is extremely important as we navigate out of the pandemic and into a world of hybrid workplaces and flexibility.
Here at Sparck, we believe holistic health and wellness includes recognition and rewards as part of a total benefits compensation package. Our solution is designed to equip managers with the tools to personalize every experience by giving employees a voice, capture critical insights, and connect your workplace in a more human way.