For millions of Americans, the days of shutting down their computer at 5 p.m., spending the drive home decompressing and unwinding from the office, and then stepping through the door and switching into mom or dad mode are now a fading memory. 4.7 million people work remotely—at least half the time—in the U.S. and have found that mentally “leaving the office” for the day is challenging. Since the start of the pandemic, organizational well-being has declined—due to anxiety, blurred boundaries, loneliness, and general feelings of uncertainty. To retain talent in today’s competitive labor market, it falls on organizational leaders to cultivate sustainable ways of working while enhancing employee mental health across all of their companies’ people practices.
The cost of poor workplace well-being
Lower levels of organizational well-being are correlated to higher levels of employee burnout, stress, worry, anxiety, and depression. Gallup has calculated the costs of poor well-being in the workplace. Below are their findings.
- 75 percent of organizations’ accrued medical costs are due to preventable conditions
- Global employee burnout costs $322 billion in voluntary turnover and lost productivity and contributes to 15 to 20 percent of organizations’ total payroll
- Struggling and suffering employees cost $20 million of additional lost opportunity for every 10,000 workers
Making well-being a priority within your organization
Employees want to have the option to work remotely—74 percent say that having this option would make them less likely to leave a company. However, when working from home, the lines between work and personal life become blurred. Distractions, emotions, and frustrations—that were previously left at home and not brought to the office—are now crossing into the workplace and impeding performance. The three biggest challenges associated with remote work are unplugging after work (27 percent), loneliness (16 percent), and communication/collaboration (16 percent). Therefore, it falls on organizational leaders to cultivate sustainable ways of working for both in-office and remote workers—at the individual, team, and corporate levels. Below are areas on which to focus.
Autonomy and flexibility
Workers value employers that empower them to manage their own time and give them the flexibility to utilize it most efficiently. When managers abandon micromanaging in favor of autonomy and self-governance, studies show that job satisfaction, motivation, and creativity increase. Organizational leaders should focus on communicating the work that needs to be done, giving their employees the necessary tools, and then providing them with the space needed to complete it.
Organizational leaders need to become more aware of individual employees’ boundaries and how to work within them. When you create a longer day or workweek for your employees, it’s important to explain why it’s necessary and important. Establish a “no email outside of work hours” policy where employees are contacted after hours and on weekends only when necessary.
In the past, workers were penalized for arriving late to work or leaving early. This fixed schedule no longer accommodates employees’ needs and preferences. Should performance be measured based on the hours spent working on a project or the results produced? We are starting to see more focus placed on output that is measured by results and not input hours.
To boost morale and encourage a more healthy work-life balance, companies like Netflix, Grubhub, and LinkedIn are offering their employees unlimited PTO. An unlimited PTO policy allows workers to take as much time as they choose—as long as it doesn’t interfere with their ability to get their work done.
Make wellness part of the workday
When your employees are mentally drained, stressed, or feeling lonely, there’s a good chance they are not as engaged and productive as they have to potential to be. Below are a few ways to provide employees with workday well-being breaks.
- To help with stress management, consider offering virtual mediation sessions or global “no meeting days.”
- If most of your workforce is remote, access to the company gym is no longer an option for daily fitness. Consider launching a fitness challenge using a tracking app—like GoPivot or Bonusly—to encourage your employees to exercise in a fun and convenient way.
- Host “Financial Friday” sessions where you offer financial literacy and planning education to your employees.
- Plan monthly virtual department meetings—focused on relationship development— where you go around the room and allow workers to socialize and discuss their personal lives. This is a way to replace the office water cooler.
In 2022, embed well-being in all areas of your organization. Bring wellness to your employees—don’t put the burden on them to seek it. Show them that you care about them by expanding the boundaries of your employee experience to account for family and personal responsibilities. Larger organizations may want to consider the benefits that a chief well-being or chief mental health officer—that advocates for the pandemic-changed needs of your employees—could provide.
This blog was written by TalentRise’s Leadership Coach Kristen Lampert.