The state of employee wellbeing in 2021
The year 2020 has changed our work vocabulary and life philosophy. Most of us have now been on a Work from Home mode longer than we imagined and to stay safe during this pandemic, we may continue to operate in a hybrid work environment, at least for some time now.
This brings us collectively addressing one of the most important topics this year – workplace wellness. Business leaders have readjusted their lenses to focus better on the holistic wellbeing of their employees – with mental wellness occupying the top slot. The year itself turned out to be one of the biggest teachers of all times, urging companies to reset strategies and modify key HR policies such as enhancing safety measures, easing work-from-home transition, supporting hybrid work environments, and finally, planning phase-wise return to the workplace.
Building stronger, happier teams
Today, business leaders wholeheartedly recognize the fact that good employee health is just good business sense. According to the recent 2021 Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends report, employers need to reimagine their strategy and shift focus from surviving to thriving. And to successfully do that, employers will have to re-architect work priorities and make employee well-being central instead of secondary.
In 2021, employers will need to be flexible towards radical changes and adapt to a hybrid work model. Strong safety measures such as sanitization protocols and mandatory mask-wearing adherence will become standard practices across industries. This shift will penetrate the organization's cultural and physical environments.
Many organizations have already taken a well-placed step towards inculcating an employee-centric culture with innovative solutions. Some of the aspects modified by top organizations are flexible working policy, relooking at leave and holiday policy, and so on.
Purpose and priorities taking center stage
Not only businesses but also employees have also shifted to thrive mode. With their preferences put into perspective, employees will now relate to a purposeful environment that considers their needs and wants. One of the key factors that potential employees will look at while joining an organization or staying at an organization will be the employer's well-being packages curated for employees.
Preparations for an inclusive and diverse workforce
People no longer want to be tied to an office desk. They seek an inclusive environment where every voice is heard, and they are given a seat at the table. This would only translate into more collaborative tools and initiatives – online and offline.
Technology will be the Hero: Savior in 2020. Enabler in 2021. This will be the future of tech. Organizations must prepare to automate their processes and provide strong technical support to the employees, especially those working remotely. Video calls, AI-driven software support and shared documents are here to stay, along with reskilling and talent development programs.
Pillars to focus on in 2021:
With the above upcoming trends in mind, I suggest four critical pillars from employers to focus on to build a wholesome employee wellbeing strategy for 2021:
- Physical Wellbeing – Employers need to remember that long work hours will lead to burnout and push employees to look for better work conditions. Many organizations already have an ergonomically designed workspace. What is needed is an excellent strategy to provide options that allow physical movement, with activities such as yoga, dance, and more. Employers can provide immunity-boosting and healthy food options at the workplace and access to nutrition coaches as well. The focus should be on prevention and health maintenance.
- Emotional Wellbeing – Organizations need to implement plans to help their people manage anxiety that can lead to stress and other related issues. There is an urgent need to encourage conversations around mental wellness. This includes providing mindfulness programs and access to medical professionals under Employee Assistance Programs (EAP) for employees and their family members.
- Social Wellbeing - The social component of the well-being strategy is probably the least spoken. With the pandemic limiting everyone's social interactions and mandatory social distancing rules, employees need an option to socialize safely and have healthy interactions with each other. Whether it is working remotely or from the office, employers can leverage collaborative tools to increase communication between employees and boost the workforce's morale.
- Financial Wellbeing - Financial stress harms employees' personal and professional lives – and by extension on your organization. Employers can build constant communication on tips to manage finances and sessions to help employees invest in the right avenues. Organizations can be transparent with the employees and provide them clarity on the business progress to showcase the financial growth and support an organization can provide, especially during uncertain times.
When well-being starts from the top and infiltrates every aspect of an organization—from office settings to events to healthy choices—it provides a foundation for more active, fit, and productive employees. The time to boost happiness at work is NOW.