By Gill Tanner
Workplaces have changed significantly in recent years, with the introduction of hybrid and remote working and increasing digitisation shifting the way we think about our careers. These are strategic changes, impacting the way we work as much as what we produce. As the dust is settling around this transformation, and we begin to accept that this is our reality now, it is time that organisations start considering their cultural impact, especially when it comes to wellbeing.
Learn the lesson of concentrating on employee wellbeing
In early 2021, almost half of all employees reported feeling at least somewhat burned out at work, with the true figure likely to be much higher. This trend is a challenge which has long plagued managers but has also worsened significantly in the past two years. There are several potential explanations for this, such as the development of an ‘always-on’ work culture caused by widespread working from home, or a lack of opportunities to blow off steam at the end of the day when under quarantine restrictions. Whatever the reasoning, we must look at how businesses responded in detail.
Innovative strategies were born out of this difficult period, with businesses forced to move beyond the traditional ‘talk to HR’ approach to supporting staff. Instead of being reactive, organisations had to start being much more proactive, nipping potential burnout and mental health concerns in the bud before they bubbled to the surface. Strategies varied from business to business but included ideas such as ‘walking meetings’ whereby the team take calls away from their desk and get out into the fresh air, and digital team-building activities to replace team away days. These answers to a challenging period may have been born out of necessity but need to become part of regular working life – we can all learn from them going forward.
How can leaders support their staff with their wellbeing?
Once upon a time, managers may have seen employee wellbeing as a subject reserved for the HR team. This is no longer the case. When an issue is endemically affecting every part of a business’ day-to-day, like employee wellbeing, it is everyone’s problem, whether a line manager, director or individual employee.
Inevitably, this is dependent on your business, your people, and your industry. Employees who work in a retail outlet will have stressors that are completely different to employees who work in a law office, but there are common services that businesses can offer across the board. There are a myriad of external platforms that effectively utilise digital technologies to both streamline and improve employee access to wellbeing support. Digital coaching, for example, is an effective way for employees to focus on their career journey alongside an experienced coach, identify pain points, and work together to resolve any issues. This tool can sit alongside other disciplines, such as mentoring and e-learning for example, to create a workplace environment in which people have unique support that meets their individual needs.
Embedding wellbeing into your business’ culture
Implementing wellbeing tools and strategies is, however, only the first step in a much longer journey of organisational change. To be really effective, wellbeing needs to be an integral part of your company culture, wherein it is a constant consideration in the background of daily activities, rather than separated initiatives that are launched at different times. Businesses will be at different stages in the journey of culture change, but, even if you are only in the early phases of this integration, it is never too late.
Cultural shift is in this instance all about making wellbeing a priority, defined by two principles: flexibility and tolerance. Managers must be flexible to the needs of individuals, with regular discussions about workload, mental health, and personal responsibilities. They must also display tolerance around these things, being ready to shift gears when things aren’t working for the individual. This contributes to an overall calmer working environment, which is also a more productive one, as staff appreciate being cared for and will give more back as a result. When businesses build an organisational culture that hinges around employee wellbeing it’s not only employees that benefit, but the business’ productivity and prosperity will see a boost too.
About the Author
Gill Tanner, Senior Behavioural Scientist at CoachHub, is an accomplished HR Specialist and Coach who has been influential in driving behavioural and cultural change, enhancing performance, and maximising strategic partnerships. She has worked as a Chartered FCIPD HR Director in various pharmaceutical companies throughout her career, allowing her to build a broad skill set including HR strategy planning, people and organisational development, and stakeholder and employee engagement. After pursuing an MSc in Coaching and Behavioural Change at Henley Business School, she transitioned to her current research-driven role at CoachHub.