New Norm: Employee Well-Being For the Win

The “future of work” now on everyone’s mind and a headline that is all over the media. The new buzz word (ok phrase!)

There will definitely be macro changes that last well beyond COVID. One of those is an expectation that companies pay more attention to, and actively support, their employee’s well-being.

Well-being is a broad term. I think that’s the point now. This goes beyond HR policies and traditional benefits. It is about taking a holistic view. It is financial, social, physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual well-being. It means looking at how work practices impact your well-being.

Engagement & A Sense of Purpose

There are many ways to think about employee engagement one of which, that I like for this discussion, is career well-being. More than ever that starts with purpose. The ability to find purpose or meaning in your ever day job.

As a company it is important not only to have a clear and authentic purpose but to tie each employee’s role to that purpose. How that person helps the company achieve its mission. This can be reinforced with performance metrics and incentives (not just money but appreciation and recognition). At the end of the day, employees want to know their purpose as it relates to the larger mission, how their contributions impact success and those you are serving.

Particularly, for Millennials (the largest generation in the American workforce), they care about purpose over a paycheck and personal and professional development over dollars.

Companies should be offering more workshops/courses/programs on a variety of topics. For example, leadership training, communication skills, social media strategies (your employees are a living, breathing advertisement for your brand), or something specific for a particular functional team.

To keep track of employee satisfaction or engagement think about surveys and make sure managers are checking in regularly to take a pulse check of their team. Even as basic as outright asking, “do you know how your role contributes to our mission?” heck — “do you know the company’s mission?” to “what engaged with your work do you feel?”

People First Culture

Humanity. Active Listening. Support. Connection.

Everyone (or almost everyone, I suppose, though not sure who is in the “no” camp) believes that WFH is going to become the norm for many people. Not all and certainly every company will have its own policies, but there is definitely a movement toward WFH is proving to be more productive than imagined by some companies.

Minus the work/life balance challenges. But even here, I think the question of how to support a work/life balance (ok I hate that phrase because not really a balance but go with me…) is no longer just an HR debate. The old flex-time framework needs updating.

The C-Suite now has a front seat to the challenges of balancing work life and responsibilities at home, if they didn’t before. What we are learning is that if you empower employees to decide their own balance, they are more productive and less stressed. And, this assumes that we also accept that a 24–7 culture is not productive and respect there is a need for clear lines.

This isn’t to say that WFH is all sunshine and roses. It is isolating. Companies need to foster a sense of community. Ensure that there are regular touchpoints and opportunities for colleagues to connect virtually or verbally both one-on-one and in group settings. Set regular one-on-one meetings with direct reports, team happy hours or game night (trivia or family feud between departments), maybe a talent show. Emphasize connection and interaction.

Not only do people experience isolation if often comes with anxiety and depression as well. Conditions that are not going away simply because it’s back to work we go. It is time company’s took into account the emotional and mental well-being of its employees. Today, companies can offer access to Talkspace or a subscription to Headspace.

“What Can I Do?” For My Employees

In no particular order, some ideas.

Physical well-being — access to fitness — partner with a local gym and offer a deal or a stipend toward fitness, subscriptions ClassPass, or do online group fitness class as a team. Have corporate challenges — count your steps or water intake? Shout-out winners.

Mental well-being — already covered two great outlets are Talkspace and Headspace. What about group meditation or a class on breath work?

Financial well-being — online programs on budgeting, money management on top of the actual incentives you pay.

Health — yes exercise; sleep — get everyone on the Calm app! Telemedicine access. Discounts on healthy food subscription box services.

Going forward leadership will need to take the time and effort to learn about their employees. What are their values, interests, strengths, and motivations? Being more mindful of the well-being of your employees should no long be a “nice to have” but a “need to have” — a positive outcome from COVID, I hope.

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Kate Carney

I help women entrepreneurs scale businesses. I am a business consultant and legal advisor.