The imperative towards managing employee wellbeing has been on the rise for quite some time now. Organizations across all verticals are taking a comprehensive approach to employee experience. Here employee wellbeing which revolves around optimizing mental health and wellness is becoming a top priority. While the trend has been gradual for a few years now, these unprecedented times with the rise of remote work have accentuated the focus. The global pandemic and uncertainty is unleashing a series of stress triggers for individuals both at the professional and personal front. Invariably, this is negatively impacting employee wellbeing and it is therefore, an organizational priority to restore the same.
The Employee Wellbeing Challenge:
The spread of Covid-19 and subsequent rise of remote working is leading to a plethora of challenges that most organizations are not prepared to deal with. They are, thus, having a difficult time managing employee wellbeing. Let’s quickly glance through the macro challenges to employee wellbeing and their impact on performance.
- Uncertainty: Each one of us is surrounded by clouds of uncertainty. On the professional front, employees are facing the brunt of salary cuts and sudden layoffs. This uncertainty is triggering numerous negative thoughts for employees along the lines of their job security and hampering their mental wellbeing.
- Stress of office work and housework: With the lock down in place, most employees are donning two hats. On the professional front, they are expected to finish their work and maybe over deliver too. On the personal front, they have to manage their household too. This conflict of which work to prioritize is creating an imbalance for many, impacting employee wellbeing. While a sizable chunk of employees have been managing these two roles simultaneously for years, some are facing it for the first time and having a tough time at it.
- Social isolation: The focus on social distancing is leading to social isolation. Since humans by nature are social animals, this limited social contact is leading to stress. At the same time, restriction of movement at some places is further adding to the anxiety and distress.
- Inability to switch off: Finally, remote working is blurring the line between office time and home time as employees are finding it difficult to switch off. The conventional office day of 9-5, is becoming 13-14 hours long, stepping into the work-life balance.
If you collate the impact of all these challenges together, it will become very clear that the impact on employee wellbeing is negative. If you look closely, despite putting in more hours, the productivity is going down in organizations which are shirking away from employee wellbeing initiatives. In such cases, employees are more distracted, unable to concentrate, which is hampering organizational performance as a whole.
Promoting Wellbeing Remotely
Most forward looking organizations already have a few practices in place which are enabling them to manage employee wellbeing remotely. Here are a few best practices that organizations can take inspiration from to build their employee wellbeing strategy for a remote workforce.
- Keep communication channels open and encourage interaction: One of the major reasons for mental distress among employees is the lack of organizational communication and the ambiguity that comes along. Make sure you constantly communicate with your team and keep them updated about what is going on. Also, depending on your company culture, it might be a good idea to have conversations beyond work and encourage employees to share challenges with one another.
- Check mental health pulse: It is important to be proactive in gauging the mental health and wellness of your employees. You could either get a professional to help you out or you could explore some organizations specializing in the field of employee experience and seek their help. The idea is to understand the distress level of each employee and focus on a tailor made solution for each. Simply having a mindfulness session will not suffice the need of the hour.
- Have an expert on standby: It would be a good idea to have a professional psychologist or therapist on call in case any of your employees need it. Due to the taboo on mental health and wellbeing, some of your employees might not want to share their problems with one another, but might feel more comfortable sharing with an expert. Give them all the possible options.
- Focus on digital support: Finally, with a remote workforce, it is very important to focus on as much digital support as possible. Share de-stressing content in the form of videos. It might be a good idea to even collaborate with a few HR- tech partners that can offer you digital solutions for managing employee wellbeing.
Managing Employee Wellbeing: The Ripple Effect
While managing employee wellbeing in every situation is important, its importance grows exponentially in uncertain times like these. With ambiguity all around, the wellbeing and wellness of employees is bound to stagger and take a hit. Therefore, organizational focus on employee wellbeing in such situations is of utmost importance. Only when organizations proactively strategize and invest in employee wellbeing, can they expect to have a productive workforce in uncertain times. It would be ideal for organizations to leverage technology with digital interventions to achieve exemplary employee experience. Since the remote work experience is here to stay for at least some time and might even become a normal state of affairs, employee wellbeing needs to take top priority for organizations. The rising uncertainty and lack of social connect is pushing organizations to adopt a digital first approach to employee wellbeing and the leaders in this space have a fair chance of outperforming the laggards. In a nutshell, this is an opportune time for organizations to don a fresh lens and reinvent their employee wellbeing strategy to ensure social connect, communication and wellness through times of uncertainty.