The past year has taken its toll on both employees and the companies for which they work. A study on the post-pandemic workplace, conducted by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), validated this. Many employees who had to adjust to full-time telecommuting, or who had to work onsite in half-empty, social distancing-mandated offices, while also navigating the pandemic-induced economic crisis experienced emotional distress and periods of lower productivity.
But just because COVID-19 is slowing down doesn’t mean we’re out of the woods. Here’s a look at how employers can prioritize employee well-being in order to increase productivity and yield business success. As you might have guessed, it’s all interconnected – and essential as we move into the future.
Boosting Employee Well-Being
Well-being is defined as “the state of being happy, healthy, or prosperous,” so let’s use this definition to dig into how the general workforce has checked those boxes recently. With a constant underlying threat of potentially severe illness from COVID-19, most workers likely have felt uneasy, with one-third of this well-being equation constantly in question.
To add insult to injury, 25% of U.S. adults reported that they or someone they knew lost their job due to the pandemic. So, there went another third of the well-being equation. It’s hard to feel prosperous when you’ve either lost your income or are seeing those around you lose theirs. So then, with health and prosperity on the chopping block, how could anyone feel truly happy? This is largely why well-being seemed out of reach for the past year, which has had significant effects on individuals personally and professionally.
Although these problems are universal, one survey showed that 69% of respondents reported feeling safer not sharing stress concerns with their employer. This indicates there is still a stigma around mental health struggles and services, unfortunately. The good news, though, is that employers can help change this.
You can contribute to positive strides in employee mental health by offering resources to employees about therapists to turn to in times of need, providing teletherapy to staff, covering partial or full costs of therapy when needed, and creating a culture in which talking about stress, anxiety, and other mental health troubles are not only normalized but also encouraged.
Even though global pandemics are rare, the stress in life is not. Our workers can only be at their best (and most productive) when their well-being is high, so we truly must make employee well-being a critical component of our business’ health year-round, every year.
It’s easy to connect the dots between low well-being and poor productivity. After all, who can be efficient and focused on work when the world around them is crumbling? But while a drop in productivity was expected at the beginning of the pandemic, a continuation of decreased productivity can cause irreparable harm and revenue loss. Companies must be proactive in stimulating productivity and can’t afford to relax or think that things are going to go “back to normal.” Rather, there is a “new normal” and a remote, connected workforce will be a very large part of it.
Productivity has been studied further, in the context of workers’ ability to handle formerly in-person tasks remotely. A study analyzed the potential effectiveness of conducting more than 2,000 tasks within 800 occupations remotely. The resulting conclusion is that the pandemic showed much more work could be done remotely than previously thought, including business sales calls, legal arbitration and trials, doctor visits, classroom learning, real estate tours, and even expert repairs of the world’s most sophisticated machinery made with the help of virtual reality headsets. It’s clear that working remotely is here to stay. It will be up to employers to continue to keep their employees connected to each other, regardless of whether they are working remotely or in an office setting.
One key strategy to help employees to remain productive while working remotely is to provide them with the right tools such as online workplace and management platforms. Online work platforms like Airtable, Asana, Microsoft Teams, Slack, and Zapier empower employers and employees to stay connected and remain productive.
ZDNet advises, “Don’t assume workers have adequate online access at home or elsewhere. While many will, some won’t have reliable or fast enough service or only a mobile device.” Companies should ask employees about their internet service to determine what is needed, whether it is a higher-speed service, a VPN, a mobile hotspot, or something else to keep them connected and avoid frustration.
Choose well-designed technology software that is straightforward and intuitive. These may or may not be the cheapest tools, but if a company implements something that is difficult for employees to use, they’ll cut into adoption and productivity, which may cost more in the long run.
When employees’ well-being is being cared for and maintained, they are more productive and produce better outcomes for their company. To keep employees happy and highly functioning, organizations must remember, too, that purpose cultivates engaged employees.
When companies are centered on an authentic purpose, employees feel that their work has meaning, as well as a sense of togetherness. Research shows that employees who feel a greater sense of connection are far more likely to ride out times of volatility and be there to help companies recover and grow when stability returns.
Just as poor well-being begets low levels of productivity which can chip away at your business’ efficiency and profits, the opposite is also true. When you put your employees’ well-being first, you simultaneously ensure that productivity and profitability will be protected. It’s the right thing to do from a human perspective and, luckily, it’s also the right move for your business.