SmartCompany: Why workplace wellness plans are a critical part of post-COVID business culture - Michelle Gibbings

Organisations can’t operate successfully without a healthy and thriving workforce. Thanks to SmartCompany, in this article Michelle discusses why caring for your team members is so important. 

The pandemic brought new workplace challenges to the fore, while employee concerns about mounting workloads, constant change and expectations about always being contactable outside work continue to rise.

Research revealed that people worked longer hours at the start of the pandemic. While working from home saved commuting time, it also made it harder for some employees to switch off.

The rise of burnout at work didn’t start with the pandemic.  In May 2019, the World Health Organisation officially classified ‘burnout’ as a recognised illness, while a 2018 Gallup study found that of the 7500 full-time employees surveyed, 23% felt burned out at work very often or always, and an additional 44% felt burned out sometimes.

These factors mean that the need for organisations to focus on mental health at work is essential.

It’s not about zero

Creating a thriving workplace isn’t about striving for zero stress. It’s about creating an environment where pressure operates at the right level to accelerate progress, and employees can bring their best to work each day.

This balance is crucial because of the negative impact that stress has on employees and their productivity.

Economist John Pencavel from Stanford University found that productivity declines when people work more than 50 hours each week. Even worse, working 70 hours or more a week causes the person to get the same amount of work done as people who work 55 hours. His research highlights the impact of employee fatigue and stress on productivity and the probability of errors, accidents, and sickness.

Employee-choice market

Employees will vote with their feet if employers don’t get the balance right.

The recent trend, labelled ‘quiet quitting’, was sparked by a viral TikTok clip. It’s where employees stop (or quit) doing more than they are paid for. Quiet quitting isn’t new. Research has long confirmed that how people are treated by their bosses impacts how they perform and their mental health and well-being.

Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman’s research, over many years, shows that leadership is at the root of quiet quitting. They found that the least effective managers had three-four times as many people who were quietly quitting when compared with the most effective leaders.

It’s a reminder that leadership has and always will matter.

At a time when the job market has shifted to an ‘employee-choice market’, this is more critical than ever. Employees have more options about where and how they work.

Employees want to feel valued and respected and to work in an environment that is healthy for them physically and mentally. Those elements will factor into their decision-making about whether to stay or leave an organisation and, similarly, whether to join one organisation over another.

Busy is overrated

Workplace culture is never one size fits all because organisations have different needs and workplaces have varying pressure points.

Some organisations need a fast-paced and dynamic culture to succeed, while others seek a more relaxed and stable culture. Workplaces are more stressful when the organisation’s current culture doesn’t align with the organisation’s stated objectives or enable employees to thrive.

In all this, it’s crucial to recognise that busyness and productivity are not synonymous.

American author Henry David Thoreau said: “It’s not enough to be busy, so are the ants. The question is, what are we busy about?

Support matters

Leaders must be equipped to notice the signs of misalignment and misplaced busyness, as well as indicators of workload stress and burnout. This may include feeling ineffective and more cynical, having reduced energy, motivation, and efficiency, and being more frustrated and irritable.

Leaders then need to be ready to check in on their team members on how they are feeling and offer support. This support can come in many forms, from an empathetic and supportive conversation to externally based mental health support services.

Organisations can’t operate successfully without a healthy and thriving workforce. Caring for team members goes hand in hand with creating such an environment. Creating a mentally healthy workplace culture isn’t about the one thing an organisation or leader does. It requires awareness, patience and persistence so that activities and support are always and consciously applied.

Publication: | |