Over the last 20 months, almost every individual has been affected by the outbreak of COVID-19 and its unprecedented impact in varied ways. It posed many challenges for people as they were stuck inside their homes and struggled to adapt with the new normal where their comfort zones were challenged and pushed and they had to adapt, migrate to online platforms, unlearn old patterns and learn all things afresh. As people reeled with the loss of their loved ones while struggling to find balance in the new work from home dynamic, organisations readjusted their lens in 2021, laying a renewed emphasis on their people and laid down genuine initiatives for overall employee wellbeing.
Bringing employee well-being at the centre
Mental health issues have always affected employees. As per WHO, since 2016 the global economy bears a loss of $1 trillion annually because of the fragile mental health of employees. COVID -19 has helped organisations acknowledge the importance of mental health which was otherwise considered a stigma or for that matter just sidelined to the margins. However, it is imperative to accept that mental health contributes significantly to the loss of productivity, leads to mental absenteeism, and burnout amongst employees and this has only increased in a WFH setup as the lines between professional and personal lives get blurred. Thus, while navigating through such trying times, organisations that have a strong and compassionate leadership and also promote a positive work culture have seen higher retention of employees as compared to organisations that don’t.
Employers are looking at innovative ways to integrate employee wellbeing in their workplace engagement strategy to help employees retain their performance and avoid burnouts and mass exodus in some cases. Organisations across industries are rethinking and recalibrating to ensure focus on employee health with a more holistic lens. If efforts are invested in an efficient and sustained manner, leveraging the strengths of the organisational culture, it can result in overall employee motivation, better productivity, growth of the company, and a nurturing work environment.
Employee Assistance Programs
The policies laid down by companies in the last one year will prove to be fundamental and shall go a long way in leading cultural change and enhancing employee experience. In this world of rapid digitisation, organisations that have been quick to transform their businesses to a virtual platform have seen a more seamless integration of processes leading to more satisfied employees.
Organisations are creating more awareness about the importance of physical well being and are looking for ways to build a more balanced approach towards WFH. Additionally, as many people are hesitant to step out for medical consultations, through employee assistance programs, employers are creating platforms where each employee can get access to online medical assistance. These consultations are not limited to general physicians but often also extend to provide free counselling to those who need it without compromising on the confidentiality. Many organisations have extended healthcare services to include COVID-19 tests for employees and their families, and even care facilities if required.
Emphasis is being laid on physical wellbeing of employees and people are encouraged to reserve a part of their day for exercise or other forms of fitness. To promote the idea further, organisations are making efforts to organise yoga and meditation sessions to engage employees.
Transparent employee practices
Another key factor to keep in mind, maybe the most important one, is trust. It is necessary for employees to trust their leaders and vice versa to enable better collaboration and communication and therefore creating and cultivating trust is a must.
Realigning roles and creating more transparent job descriptions in view of the pandemic has also brought ease and comfort to people as it has allowed for a better management of tasks and responsibilities. To further help employees, organisations have invested in upskilling their people. A major focus of such upskilling programmes has been on tackling the skill gap caused by the new and rising digital world and this has also ensured a smoother transition of people to a virtual WFH setup. Employees have also shown keen interest in utilising this opportunity and inherit some new skills which makes them a stronger asset to their organisation. People feel motivated and find a sense of purpose when employers are more invested in their growth and provide a steep learning curve.
Leading with an employee first approach
While the world is being won over by technology, employees continue to be the most important resource for any company and those organisations that realise it are often ahead of their peers. In a race to meet deadlines, complete tasks, achieve results; it is only natural that employees feel stressed out. When employees are stressed, physically or mentally, it impacts the larger workforce and therefore the overall output of an organisation. Hence, companies must incorporate well designed and tailored Employee Assistance Programmes to address specific issues that an employee might face. These programmes are necessary and offer a safe and secure space to employees to discuss professional as well as personal issues, affecting their health.