The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has left an insurmountable effect on everyone’s lives. From abrupt layoffs to the economic downturn and increasing uncertainties to isolation, everything has taken a toll on individuals. Thus, in addition to having a smooth transition to remote work, companies also started looking at ways to support employees through the pandemic stress.
Now, there is further uncertainty due to Omicron virus in the beginning of 2022 and no one knows how long its effect will continue.
An analysis by Gartner Inc. reveals:
68% of organizations had started at least one wellness benefit program by late March 2020 to assist employees during the COVID-19 pandemic.
However, the journey doesn’t end here. Now that offices are re-opening, organizations must continue to prioritize employees’ physical and mental well-being in the post-pandemic workplace. They can form wellness programs and ramp up other initiatives to make the workforce feel comfortable and taken care of.
This informative article covers the benefits of employee wellness and effective ways to implement them with proven strategies.
But before that, let’s begin with understanding how COVID-19 has influenced the workplace culture.
1. How has COVID-19 influenced the workplace culture?
As we already know, the pandemic has brought about significant changes in people’s lives across the globe. The terms like “social distancing”, “quarantine”, “lockdown”, etc. became a part of the everyday lexicon. One of the most prominent shifts among all the aspects was witnessed in the workplace dynamics. The pandemic compelled many companies to completely transition to remote work and stay relevant during the crisis.
Although working from home offered multiple benefits to the employers and employees, it also brought about several challenges. Employees started feeling the pressure to meet the deadlines amid several disruptions at home. There could be technical glitches like network/Wi-Fi issues or parents of young children feeling overwhelmed to juggle work and kids at home, among other challenges.
As a result, organizations started witnessing a surge in unplanned absenteeism, lower employee morale, decreased productivity, and even attrition. The growing importance of work-life balance propelled organizations to introduce flexible work schedules into their workplace policies. Although some offices resumed normalcy and others embraced the hybrid work model, many companies continued to adopt a complete WFH approach.
Since resources are their most significant asset, organizations must take necessary steps to ensure employees’ health and well-being. Some examples of employee wellness programs include 4-working days per week, free counseling sessions, etc. Companies like Buffer and Twitter have implemented them and experienced promising results.
Now that we know how the workplace changed after Covid-19, let’s look at how employee wellness is crucial in the post-pandemic era.
2. Significance of employee wellness
A survey by Harvard Business Review reveals 60% of employees believe that their employers should implement some sort of strategy to benefit the workforce and improve employee well-being
The reason is the numerous benefits employee wellness provides.
Here are a few prominent ones.
I. Helps minimize work stress
Employee wellness programs at the workplace boost employees’ spirits and ensure they are physically and mentally at their best. Thus, the workforce is better positioned to manage stress levels when emotionally fit.
II. Enhances engagement and productivity
Taking care of an employee’s well-being strengthens their morale and sense of belonging, causing a higher level of engagement. Moreover, when resources lead a healthier lifestyle, they are naturally motivated to perform better, increasing productivity.
III. Provides a sense of value to the employees
By providing employee wellbeing programs, companies can foster a people-centered workplace, and workers will have a space to talk about what they’re feeling or going through. It gives them a sense of worth because they are heard and understood.
IV. Increases retention rate
When an organization caters to the workforce’s emotional and physical well-being, it evokes a sense of loyalty. So, when organizations provide wellness programs coupled with professional growth and development opportunities to their employees, it increases retention.
V. Reduces absenteeism
Wellness programs can help reduce health risks by providing a safe environment for the employees’ holistic well-being. Since employees are at their optimum levels, there is less absenteeism as sick leaves, and unplanned absences go down significantly.
Given the importance of employee wellbeing initiatives, let’s understand how to implement an effective employee wellness strategy.
3. Effective strategies to promote employee wellness in the new normal
Employees are returning to the office after witnessing the most stressful year of their lives. Thus, the return is not easy for them. To ensure they have a great experience and smooth transition, employers must implement the right strategies to upkeep their workforce’s health and provide a positive work environment.
Here are some of the following ways you can implement to promote employee wellness programs in the post-pandemic workplace.
I. Communicate and empathize with employees
As mentioned earlier, your workforce is returning to the workplace after facing a challenging time due to the pandemic. Some must have faced significant losses or critical health issues, or some may have just stayed isolated away from their loved ones. All these factors might have triggered their emotional state. Thus, first and foremost, managers should communicate with each of them.
They can conduct one-on-one sessions to console them and help them understand they are not alone. Moreover, a private conversation provides more comfort to the employees to open up. Your compassion and empathy will make them feel heard, help them feel at ease, reduce their stress levels, thus facilitating emotional well-being.
II. Ensure compliance with COVID norms
Employees prioritize their safety and fear getting infected with the Covid-19 virus in the new normal. In order to ensure everyone stays safe at the workplace, organizations must raise awareness about the significance of following Covid-appropriate behavior. They should encourage employees to wear masks, maintain social distancing, use hand sanitizers, and get vaccinated.
At the same time, firms should invest in the regular sanitization of the workplace, provide health kits, keep packaged foods instead of sharing common canteens to prevent the spread of the virus. They can also set up various medical camps for employees to receive regular health checkups. Moreover, companies should organize separate vaccination drives for their employees to ensure utmost safety. All of these measures will help ensure a safe return to the workplace
III. Focus on nurturing a people-centric culture
After the pandemic, a people-centric office environment has become essential. So, the question is, what does a people-centric culture entail? Starting from inclusivity to boosting trust and transparency, a people-centric culture, in its essence, means making employees feel heard, valued, and respected.
Thus, the leaders of organizations need to ensure people are included in decision-making and their opinions are heard. Moreover, managers should ensure that their employees have meaningful work to do and assist them in achieving their goals. Additionally, avoiding overutilization to prevent burnout can help them stay stress-free and more productive at the workplace. Last but not least, providing work flexibility to attain work-life balance is an essential part of a people-centric culture. These factors will create a positive work environment and minimize potential stressors, thus elevating well-being.
IV. Conduct surveys to assess employees’ preferences
Work from home is a personalized work setup for your employees. For example, they might be using bean bags to relax, doing mid-day yoga to regenerate, or taking a few short breaks instead of a long lunch break, and so on. Thus, when they return to the offices and see these amenities missing, it may hinder their productivity. Therefore, to add the viable options at offices, employers can conduct workforce wellness surveys to determine if the company’s initiatives align with employees’ priorities.
This will give a comprehensive idea of how they feel about the work culture. It will also help them determine any issues that they are facing. Accordingly, the organization can revisit its policies, eliminate underlying issues, and incorporate the requisite changes.
V. Implement suitable employee wellness programs
To promote holistic employee well-being, managers can implement multiple wellness programs or initiatives. For example, they can organize regular fitness and nutrition programs to help employees relieve physical and mental stress. Also, employers can arrange for various types of counseling workshops, provide gym memberships, and offer yoga retreats, all of which will contribute to employees’ psychological and physiological well-being.
In addition, they can ensure their employees take periodic breaks throughout the day. For example, they can promote frequent walks in the office to break the monotony of a sedentary lifestyle. Moreover, music has several benefits, so implementing musical programs in workplaces is a good way to rejuvenate and engage the workforce, thus encouraging employee wellbeing.
VI. Lead by example to promote wellness
Employees are inspired by their leaders and imbibe their values, morals, and work practices. In simple words, they look up to their leaders, and hence leaders must lead by example. The first step is to reflect on the importance of work-life in their lives. They can exhibit that by taking lunch or coffee breaks and leaving the office premises on time instead of overworking.
Also, they can share testimonials and describe the effects of Covid on themselves and their families to help the employees understand they aren’t alone. In addition, leaders can also show that they are concerned about their health by going for regular check-ups and taking a leave for relaxation. This will encourage employees to open up and follow suit, leading to a better and healthier work environment.
VII. Leverage the right tech to enhance well-being
Technology became the bread and butter of remote work culture. However, its benefits are not limited to the virtual work setup but beyond that. Today, workers are likely to deal with internal and external stressors, which can affect their productivity and health. Integrating advanced techs such as AI or IoT-enabled software or gadget can help leaders understand individuals, their behavioral patterns, etc. They can leverage this data and take the right initiatives to course correct in case of discrepancies.
Employers can even take wellness initiatives to the next level by incorporating IoT, especially wearable devices. With smart devices, employee data can be collected and integrated into an electronic health record that motivates them to meet desired goals.
VIII. Foster diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE, I)
An analysis by Deloitte shows that inclusive teams outperform their peers by 80% in team-based assessments.
Discrimination among different ethnicities, lack of inclusion, and unequal income distribution are factors behind unnecessary stress for employees. Thus, it is crucial to create an inclusive workplace to ensure that employees from underrepresented backgrounds are given fair opportunities and an equal platform to voice their opinions.
This will cultivate a positive work environment, alleviate stress, minimize animosity, and promote engagement, ultimately leading to employee wellness. For example, instead of reinforcing diversity, firms can organize diversity intelligence training to ensure employees accept each other without prejudice. Moreover, organizations can adopt policies, initiatives and even ensure parity of income for similar roles, which will enhance equity and positivity at the workplace.
All the above practices can help you formulate a compelling wellness initiative to ensure employees’ health and well-being.
Contrary to popular belief, employee well-being is no longer restricted to corporate giants. Today, it has become a buzzword for almost every organization. Employers have realized that sustaining well-being is the key to enhance engagement and employee retention in the wake of the pandemic. Also, the COVID-19 pandemic has affected the working population in several ways, making it even more essential to prioritize their wellness.
As vaccinations become more accessible and people return to their offices, introducing support programs will give them hope. In every organization, resources play a pivotal role. So, their empowerment will pave the way for a company to survive, innovate, and grow further.
5. The Glossary
6. SAVIOM Solution
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