The workplace today looks very different from the one people left behind when remote work was mandated in 2020. Not only did the work model change, but also the mindset of the average employee.
Supporting employee wellness is more crucial than ever before – and this support looks different than it did pre-pandemic. People have forever been changed: some of us lost loved ones, we lost colleagues, we had to be teachers while children studied online, and our lives were upended in so many ways. This means that practices, systems, processes and values have also changed, and workplace culture has been impacted. Prioritising the “new” employee and their wellness is crucial to the success of any business today.
Poor well-being not only hurts employees, it is also detrimental to businesses – it’s estimated that $322 billion in turnover and productivity is lost to employee burnout annually.
So, how can you support your staff in this new business world? Here are a few tips:
The first step would be to choose the right work model for your business and employees. Some studies have found that remote work hinders communication, while others suggest it may spur on innovation. Really, it’s all about how you manage it.
At e4, employees were still working remotely until July 2022. But we realised that in-person collaboration has its place and have since rolled out a hybrid policy whereby employees are in the office on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, with other days optional. This works for us, but it won’t work for a retail store, for example. Your set-up depends on your unique business needs.
Make sure to adapt your environment to suit your new model; whatever that may be. With fewer in-office days, it made sense for e4 to move into a smaller space that’s optimised for hybrid working. Updated or modified work designs, occasional chairs and a more open-plan design ensure flow and face time so that people can truly connect.
Talk to your company’s medical aid provider about add-on wellness benefits and be sure to clearly communicate these benefits to employees. Burnout has become a huge problem worldwide since the pandemic, largely because people stopped logging off while working from home. Additional wellness benefits that support employee well-being could include counselling sessions that help individuals achieve a better balance between their work and personal lives, as well as readily available psycho-social services.
Put people first
If the pandemic taught business leaders anything, it’s that employees should be treated as holistic human beings. Managers need to take care to create an environment where employees feel supported in their lifestyle needs.
You’ll find that if you’re more flexible, people are more honest – they will tell you they’re going to pick up their child and will finish a report in the evening. Previously, such a relationship of trust was non-existent. Such open communication is clearly preferable.
To retain talent in a competitive global market, perks are becoming more important. For some, this means hybrid work. For others, it means moving the offices closer to public transport or offering lunch subsidies.
Career development, including a budget for upskilling, is crucial. Giving people a development pathway shows them they’re valued and have a future there – while the company benefits from their new skills. It’s a win-win.
Employee well-being is not a once-off event and should be a constant conversation with employees. Culture surveys and polls to check on the effectiveness of your rollouts, as well as informal conversations, will steer decision-making. This way, HR becomes a partner to the people and can keep its finger on the pulse.
As Sir Richard Branson famously said: “Clients do not come first. Employees come first. If you take care of your employees, they will take care of the clients”.
A people-centric approach that focuses on holistic employee wellness is the key to success in today’s business world. Put people first - and you’ll reap the rewards.
* Jele is the HR and transformation executive at e4