A sense of urgency without direction pretty much sums up the past few years. There have been so many changes and new things to adapt to that businesses are at a crossroads of jumping onto fads and trends or risk missing out on avenues of growth. Human resources is no exception.
Businesses invested 34% more in employee wellbeing initiatives in 2023 than last year. And while this is a great sign, analysing if these initiatives fit the work culture's requirements and gauging their benefits has taken a backseat. This means that businesses understand that they need to invest in the wellbeing of their employees, but they are less likely to factor in the unique functions of their organisation.
But it’s not too late to change gears. As businesses budget for the upcoming financial year, they can make their wellbeing initiatives more intentional and impactful. One of the best ways to implement best practices is to understand what to avoid and why.
Recognising the importance of social connections in overall wellbeing, organisations in 2024 are placing a heightened emphasis on fostering a sense of community. It is hard for employees to engage with one another beyond work and build fulfilling professional connections. This is especially apparent between senior leaders and their teams.
The solution for disengagement and disconnection is often fun, non-work activities. You bond as you go. However, building strong professional relationships takes time and effort in the right direction. To navigate this, it is important to understand that senior leaders engage with the rest of the team or department for work, often with a position of authority–adding a layer of complexity.
The solution is simple: Scheduling monthly/quarterly one-on-ones where senior leaders can talk to their team members and understand their backgrounds, personalities, and interests. Team members can also utilise these conversations to get on the same page, share insights, and learn from their leaders.
This kind of structured space allows senior leaders to convey a genuine interest in the wellbeing of their team and makes everyone feel seen and heard.
Nearly half of the companies in the US still rely only on annual reviews. Not only is this a dated practice but it also hinders real-time improvement and adjustments. Realistically speaking, it is difficult to remember the details of tasks completed six months ago, let alone a year ago. It is even harder for team leaders to recollect the activity details of all their team members, evaluate their performance, and give them insightful, valuable feedback. This ultimately results in friction, affecting the motivation and mental wellbeing of the employees.
The annual review cycle has to break–but it need not disappear. Depending on the nature and complexity of work, businesses can resort to monthly, quarterly, and annual reviews. This provides an opportunity for continuous assessment, improvement, and adaptation, fostering a collaborative atmosphere where performance expectations are aligned with business objectives. This iterative approach enhances individual development and ensures that employees feel valued and supported in their roles.
With frequent and consistent feedback/review cycles, businesses can cultivate a culture of agility and responsiveness–something that can trickle into their other wellbeing initiatives.
Productivity above all
Any byproducts need to be examined closely to achieve optimum performance. Let’s take the example of integrating digital innovation solutions into customer experience. By adopting digital technologies like generative AI as the first layer of customer support, human service agents can pursue value-based roles. It’s a win-win. However, burnout would be the byproduct if the goal is to increase business performance and meet targets without defined productivity metrics.
Deloitte’s recent survey found that burnout trumps dedication, with 64% of working professionals in the US stating that frequent stress dulls their passion for work. This emphasises the need for a holistic approach to productivity. Setting targets without taking wellbeing into account can ultimately undermine organisational goals. The trick is to go beyond quantitative milestones and strike a balance between efficiency and employee satisfaction.
Rather than viewing burnout as an inevitable byproduct, organisations must proactively implement measures to prevent it. Implementing structured breaks, promoting a healthy work-life balance, and fostering a supportive work environment are integral components of a strategy to maintain high productivity levels without sacrificing wellbeing. Moreover, acknowledging and addressing the signs of burnout in real-time through regular check-ins and employee feedback mechanisms can serve as preventive measures.
Leaving dated practices behind
The IMF predicts that the economic downturn is likely to continue into 2024. Businesses will, understandably, want to invest in their products, client base, and solutions. In this landscape, wellbeing can be tricky to juggle. Cultivating and maintaining a healthy work environment makes up the majority of what wellbeing is about. The rest encompasses intentional, personalised, and targeted approaches that acknowledge individual needs. While it takes effort, prioritising wellbeing can build a workforce that is resilient, engaged, and equipped to tackle the uncertainties of the future.