Well-being is traditionally defined in terms of physical, mental, and social aspects. As we navigated through the irrevocable damage caused by COVID 19, wellness is no longer confined to exercising in gyms or a healthy diet, as the perils of mental illness stemming from financial insecurities, social isolation, and a lack of purpose in life has been brought to light.
To retain the existing productive workforce and attract new talents in this competitive market, organisations have a pressing need to align their values with their employees. There has been a paradigm shift in defining holistic well-being, which has six facets, that includes physical, mental, social, financial, career, and community well-being. Companies are increasingly responding to the mental health needs of their employees. Some stepping-stones in 2022 include-:
Hybrid work has become the norm
A new, human-centric model for the hybrid environment by designing work around employee-driven flexibility, culture connectedness and human leadership has become important to ensure employee wellbeing. Companies have realised that giving employees more freedom and control over their workday can have a positive impact on their happiness. It enhances the employees' work-life balance, productivity, and the financial line of the business. Thus, hybrid work is here to stay.
Shorter work weeks are a new normal
The four-day workweek is not a new concept, but the pandemic and its impact on the corporate world have catalysed its popularity. In fact, according to a recent study, 70% of employees believe the 40-hour, five-day workweek is outdated, and 45% believe that it would take them less than five hours a day to complete their jobs, given they are able to work uninterrupted. C-suite leaders and hiring managers in many companies are working together to review roles and processes in which a shorter work week can be made possible.
Focus on employee health and productivity
Employers have become more concerned about the welfare of their workforce. The pandemic has emphasised the importance to promote physical and mental health. Companies are increasingly becoming aware that happy and healthy workers are more productive, engaged, and content in their work. A wellness day, i.e., a day off that the employees might use this day off to accomplish something enjoyable for themselves is a concept that many businesses have adopted.
Creating a nurturing and inspiring environment
The physical design of a place affects our mental health and happiness. With discussions on design theory and feng shui, the year 2022 saw an advance focus on intentional spaces. Employers are taking a fresh approach to the physical design of office space and how it can play an important role in improving their employees’ mental health. Increasingly dynamic and well-designed workplaces, incorporating elements of nature offer a significant boost to employees’ mental well-being. For example, wooden materials and plants have been shown to reduce stress, and natural light with an outdoor view helps to reduce anxiety.
Mental well-being has been attributed as the main cause of long-term absenteeism and low productivity among employees. The data from various studies are worrying, as they indicate a steep increase in mental illness such as depression among the young population, who form most of the active workforce which is mostly due to chronic work-related stress. Organisations need to curtail this crisis by recognising and offering support to the employees, by de-stigmatisation of mental illness, welcoming emotions at the workplace in a non-judgmental way, soft skills training, and employee assistance programs that provide a range of support such as counseling, emotional resilience, and mindfulness training.
Trends for employee well-being in 2023 include-:
Employee experience will become a pressing priority
A recent survey of HR leaders by Gartner found that 47% cite employee experience as a high priority for 2023. Employees are increasingly looking for companies that focus on putting people first- where employee experiences are individualised to their personal and professional circumstances, flexibility-flexible hours and benefits that fit their lifestyles are ensured, shared purpose-seeking out organizations that align with their ethics, values and politics of the employees, overall well-being- a holistic take on mental, physical, and emotional health.
Senior care will become as important as childcare
A large part of the workforce care for the elderly and nearly half of them are sandwiched, also caring for children under the age of 18. Having to tend to dependents, makes it difficult for them to focus. Employers are increasingly recognising the challenges of employees who care for senior relatives, thus, newly offering or expanding senior care benefits to employees will become a top priority in 2023.
Redefining the workplace ecosystem
Hybrid work presents the challenge of measuring and tracking employee performance. With the shift to hybrid work, the concept of employee visibility has taken on new meaning and companies need to find new ways to ensure employees are recognised and included, whether they work from home or in an office. HR professionals will have to educate themselves on minimising the in-built partiality to prefer local employees over distant workforces. They will have to focus on establishing objective performance indicators, defining promotion standards, & pay raise standards.
Keeping employees engaged despite the distance
In pre-pandemic times, health activities were more individually focused — people went to the gym when they had a free hour. Now, companies will need to look at community-oriented well-being strategies to ensure that employees stay connected despite being physically apart. For example, while a step tracker might not be enough to motivate people to get up, hosting a daily step challenge is likely to induce friendly competition among team members. Non-fitness-related options can include book clubs, and game nights, all different ways to help people connect based on shared interest.
The organisations can easily achieve the above goals by analysing the available health data thereby devising a focused strategy and defining ownership and responsibilities. By fostering a culture of health which is a leadership-driven inclusive open engagement by using modern tools such as social media, it is possible to successfully employ a holistic approach to employee well-being.