The boundaries between work and home have faded to the extent that, in most cases, it's difficult to identify, define or control. A way of working, which hadn’t ever before been envisioned, emerged overnight when employees were limited to working from home for an unspecified period, leaving them clueless, directionless, and uncertain about circumstances in their work and personal realm. Life lost its balance. Employees struggled to start this new phase of working since nobody knew where they were headed and for how long. Many looked for security, understanding, support, care, and help.
According to a report from Oracle, 75 percent of respondents said the pandemic had negatively affected their mental health; 68 per cent said they preferred to talk to a robot over their manager about stress and anxiety at work; and 85 per cent said their mental health issues at work negatively affected their home life.
With stress levels rising, several organisations have taken note and immediately adopted new rules and guidelines at work where people’s emotional health took primacy over productivity targets. Most organisations implemented the TEAM model to sail through this crisis: Technology, Empathy, Adaptability, and Mindfulness. It did wonders to people who stood for their teams when members needed it the most.
A study by the American Psychological Association states that psychologically healthy workplace practices can be grouped into five categories: Employee Recognition, Employee growth and Development, Work-life Balance, Health and Safety, and Employee Involvement. Organisations needed to include all the aspects of wellness while defining the strategies. A plan that is PEOPLE centric: Purposeful, Engaging, Open, Participative, Logical, and Enabling. Installing a culture that fosters employee wellness helps decrease job turnover, increase trust index, better collaboration, increase job satisfaction, manage stress, and reduce absenteeism, among other things.
Wellness now is not just confined to the office but home too. Organisations, when defining their wellness strategy, should consider factors using the acronym of DESIGN; to present the INTENT of the strategy:
- Doable: People spend half – or more – of their day online so conventional ways may not always help; for effective collaboration, organisations must work on Digital, Personal, and Hybrid solutions; whatever suits the team and business the most. The wellness plan should identify not only what you want but also what you can achieve. It should factor in the current situation, need, organisation's ability, correlation, and timeframe, not just the trend.
- Empathetic: According to a Career Builder report, three in five workers say they are burnt out in their current jobs, and 31 per cent of respondents report significantly elevated stress levels at work. Organisations should use the power of empathy to recognise individual needs before defining the plan to improve the quality of the initiatives offered to the employees to enable and empower them. A culture that promotes open communication and has a robust feedback system helps the company and the employee align to the purpose, goal, and values.
- Simple: Not all employees can follow the same routine; offering flexibility creates a positive environment and helps them to be what they are and what they want to be, which directly boosts their productivity and engagement. The organisation and its employees should be able to timely decode the purpose and intent to participate, support, and benefit from the defined plan.
- Intuitive: Plan! It's better to PREPARE than REPAIR. Employees expect organisations to cater to the current essential needs but also be future-centric. Deep dive using data-based employee experience/wellness insights to define, update, tweak or change the plan when required.
- Goal: SMART goals help organisations access, plan, implement, review and rework when needed to purposefully meet the wellness requirements of the changing times and the changing needs of the employees. The WHY must be proactively defined and shared with all the stakeholders; that's when they buy-in.
- Need-based: It's OK if employees wish to talk to a BOT, not the manager! What's needed, when given, is valued most. Organisations may launch the best of initiatives, but they will surely fail if that's not in line with their people and business requirements and capability. We are in a unique phase that calls for unique initiatives, policies, and programs for each unique individual.
One Virgin Pulse report showed how, for 78 percent of employers, well-being is a vital part of their business plans, indicating that organisations are not going by the default model but investing well to see change and take care of their people. The equation was further verified when a survey done by United Healthcare showed that 56 per cent of employees had fewer sick days and higher productivity levels because of wellness programs. The same is echoed in a survey conducted by Forbes, which says that about 77 percent of employees feel that workplace wellness programs positively impact the company culture.
The pandemic has taken a massive toll on everyone's life. Organisations have learnt from this crisis that their greatest asset is their PEOPLE, so it's essential to understand and improve employee wellness in all aspects.
The COVID-19 crisis pushed us to accept that the well-being of employees is far more important than work numbers. If people are well taken care of, they will ensure organisational priorities and processes are in place. It took a pandemic to make us realise what we are missing. In the coming years, organisations will win the game if they continue to place a personalised WELLNESS strategy in their priority list.