The workplace dynamics have changed dramatically over the past year. As HR teams across industries continue to help the workforce navigate and adapt throughout these transformations, business leaders are beginning to realize the value of 'employee wellbeing'. The ability to approach well-being comprehensively and align it to the company’s unique culture is critical.
In the post-COVID talent landscape, offering obvious medical insurance coverage or signing each employee up for term life insurance is not enough. The COVID crisis has been emotionally challenging for many employees, changing their day-to-day work lives in unprecedented ways. To address these challenges, many companies like IT By Design are embracing employee well-being as an index of learnable actions and daily behavior. Interestingly, the mental well-being of employees has taken the center stage in workplace policies and leadership dialogue at these companies.
Redefining employee well-being for the modern-day IT workforce
Offering greater flexibility and autonomy
Pick any employee satisfaction survey today, and the results will tell you that employees value flexibility, less control, and more autonomy. These expectations around flexibility and more autonomy are not new and have been increasing over the last decade. As per a 2020 Deloitte survey, the demand for employees to have more flexibility at work is at an all-time high (up to 94 percent). To respond to these employee needs, many industry leaders from the IT landscape, including IT By Design, have started cultivating a culture based on freedom, transparency, and trust instead of micromanagement or an authoritative work culture. This has resulted in deeper relationships among employees, stronger commitments across the organization, and a more productive work environment.
Acknowledging the burnout at work
Employee burnout has been identified as one of the biggest inhibitors of productivity and well-being at the workplace. Officially recognized by the WHO, employee burnout approximately costs employers nearly $500 billion and 550 million workdays in the US alone. The burnout challenge is even more prevalent in the Indian corporate landscape. According to an ADP survey, the Indian workforce has been among the most stressed and under pressure over the past year. In a survey of 1,908 workers in India, 70 percent of them said they were experiencing stress at least once during the workweek.
While we have made great progress in identifying the causes of burnout, there is an urgent need to understand and prevent it. At present, many organizations are putting systems in place that accurately identify burnout for a remote and anxious workforce.
Broadened definition of work-life balance
With more organizations going remote and employees working from home, many employees are struggling to find a balance as the line between work and personal lives is getting blurred. One recent study shows that more than four in ten Indian employees say that a lack of meaningful separation between their work and daily routines has been detrimental to their well-being and contributed to stress and anxiety. The 'Work From Office (WFO) to Work From Home (WFH) transition' has clearly made employees more susceptible to burnout and other mental health issues.
As we take cognizance of these developments, many organizations are trying to go beyond the conventional framework of well-being and are supporting their employees beyond obvious medical benefits. New employee wellness trends indicate a growing awareness and conviction on the part of employers to offer purposeful support to their employees. IT By Design, a leading global IT organization known as ITBD in the talent landscape, has been at the forefront of implementing wellness policies and programs to acknowledge mental health issues arising out of the pandemic. The organization is proactively communicating with employees with available support and resources from the organization to help and support its employees.
How ITBD is investing in holistic employee well-being and creating a culture of trust
Holistic wellness at work
ITBD’s ‘Wellness at Work’ programs cater to all aspects of employee well-being. In addition to focusing on physical wellness through yoga sessions, dance classes, and bhangra lessons, there is a special focus on helping employees have the right focus at work. The company’s holistic wellbeing initiatives include promoting mindfulness at book club meetings, conducting meditation classes, and exchanging meaningful notes during weekly 1:1 and ‘Coffee With Community’ weekly meetings. To minimize unconscious biases, every employee is recognized as an ITBD community member first before their titles or roles.
Recognition and rewards for wellness
The ‘Wellness with Community’ initiative at ITBD incentivizes employees to prioritize their well-being and health. To include elements of fun and gamification, employees are rewarded with Bonusly points for reaching certain wellness milestones (like walking a certain number of steps) each week. Employees who complete set milestones are given shout-outs in the weekly employee newsletter and monthly town-halls to set a positive precedent.
Training leaders and managers to offer support
At ITBD, managers and their direct reports conduct interpersonal discussions on things outside of their scope of work in weekly one-on-one meetings, called ‘Weekly Same Pages’. These interactions often focus on ensuring the direct report’s emotional and mental well-being and providing them with adequate support wherever needed. Project deadlines and solely work-related topics are not included in these discussions to ensure that people open up about their life beyond their job and discuss hurdles that prevent them from achieving their goals without being judged.
Providing COVID-19 support
The company has set up a 24X7 helpline for all its employees across cities and campuses. To extend emergency support to COVID affected employees, oxygen concentrators and other important medical equipment are sourced from the US. These medical supplies are kept on standby mode across ITBD campuses to provide support to employees in their hour of need. Employees who test positive, or whose family members did, are given the time (COVID-19 specific leaves), resources, and support to recover.
Policies around COVID-19 vaccines
Under its 'wellness with the community', ITBD is reimbursing vaccination costs for all employees to their immediate family members. This is to ensure that all members of the ITBD community and their family members get vaccinated at the earliest and safeguard themselves from developing serious symptoms from COVID. Employees are given time off on their day of vaccination and offered additional resources through the 24x7 COVID helpline.
Sunny Kaila, CEO, IT By Design, shares more insights, "As an organization, we have been watching all COVID-related developments in India very carefully. We are currently taking proactive steps and providing all possible support to our community members affected by this invisible enemy. Our leadership is strongly encouraging everyone to receive their vaccinations at the earliest. Our HR team is also keeping everyone updated with relevant, verified, knowledge resources around COVID prevention and post-vaccination safety."
The road ahead
A November 2020 report from McKinsey & Company suggests that 62% of employees globally considered mental health issues to be a top challenge during the COVID-19 crisis. The disadvantages of not addressing employees’ holistic well-being issues eventually surface in the form of lower motivation, absenteeism, and dipping work productivity.
To build a more resilient workforce in 2021 and beyond, employers should design company policies that allow employees greater autonomy, trust, and flexibility. To build an authentic and compassionate culture, it is important that employers go beyond the conventional definition of 'workplace well-being.' Along with obvious physical health programs, it is the need of the hour to cultivate a genuinely caring and compassionate workplace culture that puts employees first.
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