Employee wellbeing can’t be overlooked in 2022. Numerous organizations have seen their people costs rise as employees leave and new hires are brought on. Many have reached burnout and/or are re-prioritizing their lives since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Typically, over their decades of research, Gallup has found that when employee engagement is stronger, wellbeing follows. However, since the global pandemic, employee engagement and wellbeing are going their separate ways and are not as closely tied together as they have been. The “Wellbeing-Engagement Paradox” as described by Gallup presents key information and is a critical trend for employers to pay attention to. The Gallup polling indicates that “working from home during COVID-19 is associated with intensified levels of both stable engagement and negative emotions, like stress or worry. In other words, since the pandemic, engagement has generally stayed at a steady or increased level while wellbeing has gone down. It appears that low employee wellbeing equals what many have called the “great resignation”.
How can we as leaders capitalize on upsides of working from home, while actively working to reduce the negative impacts on wellbeing for those on our teams?
Of course, there are also downsides to working from home, but in maximizing the upsides to working from home we can learn how we can reduce the negative impacts on wellbeing by noticing where the gaps are. First, the upsides to working from home.
Top 4 upsides of working from home and the positives that we should continue to lean into even if and when we go back to the office or create a hybrid work plan.
- Flexibility: Flexibility in our working scheduling allows for adaptability with the rest of an employee’s life outside of work.
- Time: We’ve saved time in commuting to and from work which means more time for family and friends.
- Ease: It’s really easy to go back and forth between work and home life.
- Costs: We’ve saved on gas, parking, lunches out, possibly where we live, work attire and more.
If flexibility, time, ease, and reduced costs are all positives, how can we maintain these positives and then look to fill in the gaps? Gallup’s research shows us that what has been forced upon many organizations because of the pandemic in many ways has helped or at least maintained engagement. That is good. This shows us that as much as possible, hang onto the positive aspects that working from home has afforded.
The divergence or negative impacts of working from home have shown up in employee wellbeing. The question needs to shift to how can we keep the upsides of engagement and practically show our employees and teams that we do care about their wellbeing? What are the barriers to increasing wellbeing in our teams in 2022?
Many organizations are offering health portals, wellbeing challenges, webinars, telehealth sessions and online coaching as a few examples of trying to care for employee wellbeing. Some organizations have implemented an extra paid day off on a bi-weekly basis, or open vacation time. This Forbes article asserts that the above strategies might be a good start and may be part of a solution that cares for wellbeing needs, but in many cases they do not “foster human connection” which is one of the major downsides to increased time of work from home.
To support wellbeing, employees need to feel a sense of human connection. It is something that we all share. We are wired to connect.
Here are 5 ways to support employee wellbeing in your teams through human connection.
- Foster and assist social connections: This is an easy step each leader can take. It can be through something as simple as an icebreaker/get to know you question at the beginning of each of your virtual meetings. Before business content, make sure you’ve teams are engaged at a human level. Here’s a list of 10 virtual icebreakers that you can try.
- Identify strengths and unique contributions of individuals: If we want our teams to thrive, connecting with employees on what they are good at and creating individual development and action plans is one way to regularly check in and support your team members. There are many assessments or workshops or books that could serve as a starting point for this.
- Regular and consistent connection and development points: If you start with identifying strengths, it is an inspiring and motivating place to continue to provide ongoing connection points for action planning and accountability. In his book Wellbeing at Work, Jim Clifton asserts that the fastest road to net thriving is to play to someone’s strengths. This is more than a once-a-year performance review, but more like weekly or monthly check ins to see how well one is playing to their strengths and receiving the support from their leader in their development.
- One leader caring about each person’s development: For an employee to feel like their organization cares, someone in their workplace needs to care about their development as a human. This is well beyond providing development or training opportunities, but more about how we use them. A great start for example would be to take part in a Emotional Intelligence or Strengths Finder workshop. Create one on one follow up conversations to extend the learning and utilize the ongoing development opportunities for each employee regardless of their role within the organization. That might mean that we have to train managers to better care about human connection in order to protect and nurture employee wellbeing.
- Providing resources: This is a yes AND thing. Yes! Do offer health portals, wellbeing challenges, webinars, telehealth sessions as well as bringing in the teamwork and leadership development experts to develop your capacity in areas such as Effective Communication. AND…all of this needs to be paired with consistent, developmentally supportive, human connection, especially if it is a work from home environment. It is not just about the “perks and policies”, although this is important, but overall, organizations need to build a “culture of care” to promote a healthy day-to-day experience for their teams.
If we can maximize the benefits of working from home AND grow our deliberate opportunities for human connection and development, then we will find both engagement and employee wellbeing to be in a healthier place this year.
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