Updated: Feb 3
Life changed for every single person out there in 2020. Unlike earlier when one looked forward to coming home, being confined to the same four walls wasn’t the same anymore. While the lockdown is being eased now, it was a completely different scenario in the beginning. No one could call their friends over, and neither could they enjoy a meal from their favourite restaurant. Stepping out for staples was another ball game altogether. In all of this, there was office work to manage – remotely, for an unsaid amount of time. Evidently, this led to many finding themselves in a state of confusion and chaos. But even amidst despair, if there’s one positive thing that came out of this, then it’s the reminder that employee well-being should take precedence over everything else.
While employee well-being is something every organisation should have been investing in anyway, Covid-19 was a good reminder to take fresh action or sustain any such initiative. After all, it is important to bring in positive change at an organisational, behavioural and cultural level.
The Lessons We Learnt
This new normal way of functioning taught [and continues to teach] us a lot, not just about life in general, but also about the way we work. Employee well-being has also been a topic of discussion across organisations, but not always can it be said that well-being is a top-priority. Especially during this uncertain time when constant talks around salary cuts, furlough, lay-offs etc are causing stress levels to rise amongst employees, a holistic well-being approach is the need of the hour. But while organisations work towards this transformation, certain realisations come across quite strikingly:
#1 Importance of staying connected
In a world that heavily relied on digital mediums even before the pandemic hit, people realised the true value of being connected with each other. Even at work, relationships with colleagues were built while sharing lunch or bumping into each other at the coffee vending machine. During home confinement, employees experienced the lack of this personal interaction. But given the lockdown, had to ironically rely on digital mediums – but this time with a sense of active realisation that staying connected is important for maintaining mental health. More importantly, organisations realised that well-being can be sustained with the help of employee mental health programs being drafted by HR teams across industries.
#2 Importance of having a positive work environment
Many employees found the change in work routine a tad difficult to manage. Although, the ones living alone found it easier to not be distracted while working as compared to employees with kids or even pets. But productivity increased without time being spent on commute, and also because of employees being able to manage personal needs without applying for a leave. This kind of flexible working has changed the way we look at work-life balance and acts as a reminder to managers that a positive work environment ensures that employees will thrive. Moreover, this positive environment was also the reason why employees dedicatedly worked beyond hours, at times.
#3 Importance of having a leadership team that is transparent and supportive
While work-life balance is one aspect of employee well-being, simply managing task lists and office hours doesn’t cut it. Employees need a leadership team that extends their support and motivation whenever necessary. It helps employees to attain their goals more effectively and faster, while also gives them an opportunity to work on bettering themselves with the feedback they receive. In a situation like the pandemic, employees were completely reliant on their leadership. If employees trust their leadership, this reliance is easier to deal with. But trust doesn’t get built in a day – it requires frequent and transparent conversations as well as experiences. Even more so now that most employees are anxious and in isolation.
Organisations Managing Employee Well-Being
Owing to these realisations and reminders, many corporates acted on it to ensure employee well-being. Many have launched new programs and initiatives to help employees maintain their physical as well as mental health during this stressful time. For example, Salesforce has launched multiple wellness programs like their Employee Assistance Program [EAP] that provides instant support in the form of video conferencing sessions. This helps employees deal with workplace stress, depression, family matters that affect mental peace, without a worry. Another employee mental health program is developed by Thrive Global in partnership with Stanford Medical that looks at enabling employees as well as their families to understand stress and anxiety, free of cost. While Grammarly – another organisation offers mental health time, fitness programs, yoga sessions and even nutrition related workshops.
The Bottom Line
The change we see in the way organisations prioritise employee well-being is great. But, it shouldn’t take a crisis situation for organisations to realise its importance and provide support. If such investments and awareness around employee well-being is maintained, organisations won’t have to work from scratch yet again. After all, such initiatives not only help boost employee productivity but are a step towards future-proofing the organisation by building profits and maintaining a good reputation.