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How can we tackle Employee Wellbeing in a post-Covid era?

17 March 2022 at 10:07AM

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The past two years have been challenging for a multitude of reasons. We’ve seen lockdowns, restrictions, more lockdowns, and finally the world has started to open up again. For the employed, this may have meant a sense of normality. If not, then it might have meant a hesitation, or even an anxiety about returning to pre-Covid ways of working. What is clear is that going forward into 2022 and beyond, careful procedures will need to be put in place to account for the ongoing mindset, performance and wellbeing of employees.

Hybrid working

Hybrid forms of working have been popularised since restrictions have been eased, whereby some firms may operate a one, two or even three-day office working system with the remaining days working from home. The most important thing here is maintaining a sense of connection, which is more difficult to achieve via Zoom meetings.

If we take a two-day hybrid working system for example, on the one hand, organisations will need to keep their employees engaged with each other as well as their work in order to really make the most of the two days of physical human interaction. On the other hand, organisations will also have to take into account the re-adaptation process of employees who have worked from home to make a return to the office.

There are certain aspects of the working culture which may take a hit, may take time to re-establish or may need to be taken into consideration– from after work socials, to a clear health and wellbeing initiative for all employees.

Looking at the root causes

In the past, most firms would tackle wellbeing by introducing outside initiatives to help employees to manage their stress, or fortify their mindfulness. Think initiatives such as cycle to work schemes, discounted gym memberships, workshops and so forth. Going forward, firms will be forced to address employee wellbeing issues from the inside.

According to this survey from CIPD, nearly 80% of organisations have experienced stress-related absences in their employees over the last 12 months. Another survey from Champion Health suggests that in the last 12 months, nearly 60% of employees felt anxious at work, and that nearly 60% of employees reported musculoskeletal pain from work, mainly in their lower-back, neck and knees. This particular statistic can speak to the amount of time employees spend sedentary.

What this information should be telling organisations is:

  • Have we provided a safe working environment for our employees?
  • What are we doing/have we done to ensure our employees can talk to us about anything?
  • What can we do to encourage more activity in the workplace?
  • How sustainable are our wellbeing practises? Are we constantly reviewing and updating these?

Organisations will need to start appreciating that it’ll take time to create a systemic wellbeing system that will need constant review as the world changes. Unfortunately, employee wellbeing does not fit a ‘one size fits all’ approach, so be prepared for a complex journey ahead.

Psychological safety

One of the positives which has come out from the past two years has been that people are more open to talking about their emotions, concerns and feelings surrounding their mental health. As such, firms should embrace this in their culture and encourage a safe space where their employees can open up freely about their experiences. Inviting a culture where employees won’t be insecure or embarrassed to speak their truth is crucial in allowing individuals to reach their true potentials and feel an enhanced sense of wellbeing and belonging. A company that is not afraid to speak about its failures, admit where they’ve gone wrong or ask for feedback creates a culture in which employees can be encouraged to be more open.

According to Centre for Creative Leadership, a few ways in which you can create more psychological safety at work are:

  • Showing a genuine curiosity for your employees’ ideas and being open-minded to opinions which may challenge the status quo
  • Not punishing experimentation and risk-taking within reason, but encouraging learning from failure and sharing lessons learned from mistakes
  • Promoting healthy dialogue and debate to resolve conflicts productively

In summary, employers and employees will have learnt a lot from the past two years, but one thing that’s for sure is that measures for employee wellbeing will need to continue to be monitored, reviewed and updated as time goes on. In future there will be more challenging times ahead, so we have to be ready to adapt accordingly to new environments to get the best out of our employees.