Companies that prioritize their employees’ well-being (beyond sponsored programs) began to outpace those who don’t this year. The results are evident in talent attraction, retention, customer experience and financial reports. Business leaders across sectors were forced to re-evaluate their commitment to their employees, beyond just their professional development. Moving forward will demonstrate how recognition of well-being involves a series of small individual and company choices meshed together to shape a better employee experience.
Between returning to the office, new COVID strains, and hybrid teaming, the challenge is nowhere near over. In fact, organizations are being called to an opportunity to build intentionally for a post-pandemic world where every business continuity strategy includes employee resilience and well-being. Learning professionals have an important role to play.
What does a holistic approach to employee well-being look like? And how can business leaders confidently embrace a commitment to the modern employee experience? To start with, the cornerstone is a belief that if we aren’t well, we can’t do our best work. Decision-makers must implement new structures that reflect well-being as the foundation of personal and organizational health in order to triumph. Well-being isn’t a program, but instead a series of small choices that shape an experience.
Making Progress Toward Wellness
The first step in this journey is at the individual level. Being well is, first and foremost, each person’s own responsibility. The term well-being covers multiple dimensions of a state of health, including physical, emotional, financial, social, occupational and spiritual aspects. It can range from addressing mental health to setting boundaries around your work hours to ensure you have time to recuperate from the demands of your job.
As employees work to design their well-being experiences at work in partnership with their HR and training teams, there are many real-life and difficult aspects leaders must take into consideration – areas that cannot be overlooked. Some employees sit in front of their computers all day, creating physical consequences like headaches or back and knee pain.
By modeling strong boundaries and encouraging employees to feel empowered to take control of their well-being, organizations can catalyze an employee experience relevant to their deamnds of post-pandemic work. What’s important is for training teams to instill a cycle of self-awareness that leads to action. Learning professionals can offer content that signals pragmatism and permission. Both are needed to successfully create a company-wide well-being initiative beneficial to the individual employee and organization as a whole. Studies show that taking short breaks allow employees and leaders to return to work with focus. Focus leads to impact and a sense of fulfillment.
While the dissolution of digital boundaries has progressed over the last decade, widespread flexible work has shown humans are generally not proficient at setting their own boundaries. The remote work experiment the global pandemic forced has only made things worse as the lines between home and work lives have almost been completely erased. Well-being is the foundation of personal and organizational health. As Erica Volini, global human capital leader at Deloitte Consulting, recently commented, “Organizations need a workforce who can adapt and reskill quickly.” Translation: If people aren’t well, they can’t do their best work. Many employees will need help getting to a better mindset and learning teams are in a powerful position to encourage us in this new direction.
When people embrace the fact that they are living through a transformation of their entire mental model for life, it’s easy to see why we must adapt the entire ecosystem of survival. Yet, the adaptation isn’t a light switch. It’s a series of small decisions that add up to a significant shift.
Some small decisions leaders and HR teams should encourage their employees to take part in include:
- Showing up with positive energy to a team meeting.
- Going to bed early.
- Taking a day off.
- Taking medications without fear of judgement.
- Laughing with your colleagues (and your friends).
- Catching up with an old friend.
- Taking walks.
- Create and practice a hobby.
- Seeing each other without judgement and letting go of judging ourselves.
- Asking for help.
Well-Being Takes Time.
The words “well-being” and “practice” exist next to each other (or, at the very least, in close proximity). Well-being happens one day, one decision at a time. A business leader’s decision for self, team and company can make a huge impact. A learning professional’s commitment to bringing these concepts and content into leadership development, employee onboarding, and performance management will be pivotal in creating a groundswell of sustainable agility.
The future of work is a human evolution that results from practice. As HR teams and business leaders start accepting that it’s okay to not be okay, the process of re-writing the rules to ensure employee health and well-being can begin. Well-being isn’t optional anymore. It is time to accept it, own it and be well.