As organizations were forced to go remote during the pandemic, leaders and managers lost face-to-face connections and had to learn how to manage and engage people remotely. The emotional connection and social camaraderie of in-person office work vanished almost overnight, and employees and managers had to find new ways to engage. Organizations turned to technology tools and platforms to bridge the connection gap and build social equity. Today, as hybrid working continues, the expectations of a diverse and distributed workforce pose further challenges. Employees have revisited their life priorities during the pandemic, and their motivators and engagement drivers have changed drastically, forcing organizations to shape people's policies and processes differently for the workforce of tomorrow. Wellness and well-being is a critical agenda that has taken centre stage as leaders grapple with concerns around employee burnout, mental well-being, etc. Holistic well-being has become an intrinsic part of the total rewards offerings and a critical tool to attract, engage and retain talent.
83% of employers agree that the pandemic has accelerated a need for extensive changes to a rewards policy encompassing compensation, well-being, flexible benefits, time off and more.
– PwC Hopes and Fears 2022 report
How to drive social well-being?
The contemporary wellness framework includes multiple facets, namely, physical, mental, financial, social, and spiritual. It is essential to design wellness to be equitable, inclusive, holistic and suitable for a distributed and diverse employee population with various work formats, from in-office to fully remote to hybrid. Because the trust factor has diminished significantly in a remote or hybrid setup, social well-being has taken on renewed importance.
Here is how HR professionals can foster social well-being and establish connection and trust:
- Listen to and understand employees: Organizations must listen in and understand what employees genuinely want and need from their careers and lives. Regular employee surveys, 1-0-1 check-ins, leadership connects, etc., must happen in a blended online-offline manner, depending on the working methods. For example, not everyone may prefer work-from-home or work-from-office, so how can organizations provide flexibility per individual or cohort needs? Similarly, regular surveys on mental health can help identify issues such as depression, burnout and loneliness early on and create the social framework to prevent these in the first place.
- Formalize open and honest communication: Opening up two-way communication channels is crucial to help employees build a connection and develop a sense of belongingness with the organization. Top-down communication must be clear and concise so that employees know what is expected of them in terms of performance. By giving employees a voice through various online and offline media, leaders can learn to receive and act on feedback and establish an employer brand as an organization that 'listens and cares for its people.
- Train managers to recognize and support disconnected employees: Identifying signs of employee disconnect is the first step to setting it right. Managers need to be tuned in and proactively connect with their teams in groups and individually. HR must train managers to identify early warning signs such as changes in moods and behaviours, withdrawing from interactions, feeling anxious or tired, lack of motivation, etc. The people managers of tomorrow are not just bosses but coaches and counsellors.
- Empower employees to help themselves: Providing employees with the right resources to excel at their current jobs and grow within the organization and making these available and accessible in an engaging format and value-adding can positively impact social well-being. For example, access to learning content and visibility to career paths helps people feel they have control over their work and life, generating psychological safety and comfort.
- Curate a digital well-being experience: As per a McKinsey Wellness Report*, digital and social channels are becoming significantly more influential. HR must harness emerging technologies like Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, Sentiment Analytics etc. and apply people analytics to personalize the employee wellness experience. Employees expect a consumer-like wellness experience at their workplace, and the right wellness platform can help leaders, managers, and employees work towards high engagement despite differences in working models.
Technology as an enabler
A digital wellness strategy is the future of well-being, and especially in hybrid working, organizations must invest in the right wellness technologies to bridge the social gaps. This cannot be a one-time action; scheduling a weekly team call cannot ensure they will come together and start sharing their ideas and emotions. Tech can provide the platform, but humans must leverage hi-touch to transform how people interact and share. The right blend of tech and touch with a 360 degrees well-being view is critical to ingrain social well-being into the cultural ethos and sustain for the long term.
A culture of social well-being
Today's talent joins organizations for aspects beyond mere pay. A larger purpose and meaning, learning and growth opportunities, open and trustworthy work environment, sense of being valued are some of the talent magnets of the evolving workforce. Every people touchpoint, i.e. processes, policies and systems, must be tuned into an employee-centric way of creating the right experience. An employee who is physically, mentally and socially well will be able to generate significant value and contribute to the organization's growth and success. Yet, a gap persists. Addressing the gap left behind by old ways of connecting by creating a culture that prioritises social well-being is vital to regaining
Placing employees at the heart of all organizations does make business sense. Happily engaged and socially connected employees can take ownership and contribute in an increasingly diverse and distributed hybrid work environment.