We are living through a pandemic. Most businesses’ employees are either working remotely or staggering days when they come to the office. Is this the new normal?
The pandemic has certainly accelerated the digital collaboration and service strategies that already existed for many office-based businesses. Obviously, it became a necessity for business continuity during the pandemic, but some employees are now asking: “Do I really need to go back into the office?” This is something that teams will need to work on together and be realistic about in terms of options and employee needs. More importantly, businesses with employees who are physically customer-facing or provide essential services need continued support. In many cases, we are talking about individuals who are putting their personal health and safety at risk to serve, and they do not have as much flexibility, in terms of time, money and the nature of their work, to balance their work and home commitments. What the “new normal” looks like will differ by industry and even between roles within companies, but the common themes are strong communication and safeguarding employees’ physical, emotional and financial health.
When looking to improve employee well-being, how important is the support of senior figures in the organisation? How involved should they be in the initiatives?
Senior leaders set the tone for how teams behave. One of the consequences of these changes in how we work is that the distinction between work and personal time has become blurred for people working remotely. If managers are “always on,” employees may feel pressured to match that at the expense of their own self-care. So, if employees see that their managers are establishing and respecting boundaries for personal time, they will feel more comfortable in expressing their needs. When managers participate in wellness initiatives or adhere to health-and-safety policies, that’s the positive reinforcement that builds trust, credibility and connection.
What advice do you have for employers trying to support their employees’ well-being in these challenging conditions?
Employers can best support their staff by checking in often to listen to their employees, by setting clear expectations and having open discussions about information relating to employee rights, support resources and employee benefits. Understand which communication channels (e.g. e-mail, team meetings, WhatsApp, etc.) your employees prefer, and deliver clear, honest and consistent messages across all of these channels. That sense of meaningful and genuine connection is the foundation for healthy and productive teams.
Why is employee well-being in the workplace so important right now?
The global events of the first part of this year have shone a spotlight on mental and emotional health. This relates to the wider impacts of the pandemic on well-being and security, domestic abuse and healthy relationships, loneliness, how different forms of racism have persisted in our communities and workplaces, and how all of these factors converge with health inequalities. Yes, these are societal issues, but workplaces are not in a vacuum. As a result, some employees may be overwhelmed or experiencing burnout after several months of heightened stress and anxiety over both their personal and professional lives. If employers truly believe that their employees are their most valuable assets, they need to identify and act on how they can create an equitable work environment to support employee well-being in this regard.
What role does Argus envision having in assisting employers in population health management?
We aim to help employers focus on the impactable factors that affect their businesses. Population health data insights can help employers identify opportunities to manage certain health risks, promote preventive care, and support workplace wellness initiatives that meet the needs of their employees and their families. With our Thrive. Population Health & Wellness Programme, we offer custom workplace wellness assessments and consultations, health and wealth education, and connect employers and employees to services provided by select wellness partners. Healthy employees are energetic, creative and productive, and a healthy workplace is critical for recruitment and retention of talent.