2021 was a year full of unexpected challenges for all of us. Now more than ever, those in the workforce are seeking companies building an environment that supports mental health, functional well-being, and supports the humanity of their staff. When the Covid-19 pandemic hit, it brought with it a whole host of issues most have never had to address before. And as a leader in your industry, everyone else’s issues become your own.
No doubt everyone is a little battle-weary.
Even if you live in an area where life is pretty much back to normal at this point, the events of the last year have taken their toll on everyone, and your employees and coworkers are likely not in the same frame of mind that they used to be. The last year has been hard and, let’s face it, it has changed us all.
But for executive leaders, these challenges have actually become opportunities
With more and more awareness around the subject of mental health, it is no longer a subject left in the shadows to be addressed in silence and shame. Mental health and well-being services have become an integral part of the benefits offered by many top-performing organizations. Employees are actively seeking out companies who are making health and well-being a priority.
Capital One’s 2019 Work Environment Survey stated that 87 percent of professionals believe that employers should create an environment that prioritizes the mental health and well-being of employees. People are now prioritizing this aspect of their lives more than ever before. On top of it all, they expect the company they work for to recognize this necessity, and to do the same. Employees are no longer as willing to sacrifice personal time, family time, vacation time, and lunch hours for deadlines and to-do lists.
As the person who sets the vision for your organization, there are a few key areas you can guarantee your staff will flourish in this new normal we all find ourselves in.
One area all companies have had to improve is in their adaptability. Agile companies are finding more opportunities and greater profits in a demanding marketplace. Small changes like allowing your employees to adjust their start and ending times or adjustable breaks during the day can make a big difference in reducing the amount of stress an employee feels.
According to inc.com, 67 percent of employees feel having a flexible work schedule would improve their satisfaction with their work and 81 percent of professionals list a flexible work schedule as one of their top 2 reasons to stay with a company.
Not only does it provide employees with better work/life balance, but it benefits the employer as well. Employers who offer flexible work schedules see a reduction in tardiness and absenteeism, as well as a lower turnover rate among other benefits. Incorporating flexible scheduling can result in greater productivity and attracting and retaining top-performing employees.
The bottom line is employees want flexibility and employees who have this option are more content and more productive in their work.
Studies show that people ages 24-54, who are also the prime working age group, are the most health conscious in our society. Most in this age group are focused on living a healthy, fulfilling lifestyle and aim to pursue healthy options in every area of their life, including work. Capital One’s 2019 Work Environment Survey showed that the top 2 amenities requested by employees were healthy food and beverage options on site and opportunities to be more active during their workday. Why is that? We’ve also learned people who sit for longer periods of time during the day are at a significantly higher risk for health concerns including heart disease and diabetes, among others, which lead to increased sick days, time off, and lower productivity. There are many creative ways to implement changes that provide fresh options for your employees.
For instance, we know food is fuel. So, providing fresh and healthy options in workplace break rooms, vending machines, and during company or team lunches can go a long way. Companies can also provide water stations for employees to refill water bottles. Options like this can have a significant and positive impact in the workforce. It’s important we help our staff understand the company is committed to the health of employees.
It’s also widely recognized that physical activity releases stress and endorphins, which improve mood and positive outlook. Promoting physical activity through participation in recreational sports leagues, and encouraging employees to stretch or walk during breaks are also easy ways to implement more activity in the workplace and improve overall health. Many companies are even conducting walking meetings where they take their meetings out of the conference room and into the outdoors, walking while conducting business conversations. This has even shown to increase creativity by as much as 60 percent. Additionally, offering discounted gym memberships as part of benefits packages, or even providing an on-site workout room to employees, have become actively sought-after items on candidates’ wish lists while job searching.
Providing a variety of healthy options set your company apart and shows you are invested in helping them to be their best.
More and more professional environments are moving away from the familiar sea of cubicles and adopting a more flexible approach to workspaces by offering a variety of creative options for where team members can work. These options range from simpler solutions such as offering adjustable desks that can raise up to accommodate a standing position to more natural and organic atmospheres including natural light and live greenery. Some companies are even offering on-site, outdoor workspaces. A study conducted by recruiter.com shows that working outside improves memory, mood, energy levels, creativity, and teamwork. However, flexible and creative workspaces aren’t limited to what can be offered at the workplace.
When the Covid-19 pandemic hit full force, many businesses adopted a remote business model. Now, more than a year later, many companies have continued to offer working remotely as an option for their employees. According to Inc. Magazine, 9 out of 10 employees who work from home plan to do so for the remainder of their careers.
Remote workforces have employees who incorporate more of their personality and learning styles into their everyday work. The beauty of this is they can do so without having to worry that they will be disruptive to coworkers. Everything from having their pets close by to being able to enjoy background music as well as their own décor and softer lighting all have a positive effect on the holistic well-being of each employee. Remote employees can also give themselves a change of scenery whenever needed, which can refresh the mind and boost energy.
Many start out apprehensive about incorporating flexible workspaces. After all, how will we keep track of our employees, their time, their performance? It turns out offering workspace flexibility increases productivity, lowers operating costs, dramatically decreases distractions for teams, and attracts top talent.
Begin by offering employees one remote workday per week and you’ll likely see stellar results.
Set the Tone
The best leaders, do so by example. This means you’ll start by prioritizing your own health, well-being, and flexibility, and pair that with openness and vulnerability that many leaders are reluctant to project. Actions will always speak louder, so if you aren’t taking breaks, always working late or working weekends, your team members will believe that those things are what is expected of them as well. As difficult as it may be, you have to demonstrate what is best both for you personally and for your team and set the tone for what is acceptable.
A culture of wellness won’t happen by accident. You have to be intentional about seeking out opportunities to promote the environment you and your team need. An article in Corporate Wellness Magazine outlines the following points as signs your work environment is not aligned for employee wellness:
- Emails are being sent after business hours and on weekends
- Working lunches are common among employees
- Vending machines are full of junk food with few other options
- Employees are expected to work overtime on a regular basis
- There is a lack of flexibility in scheduling or allowing time off
- Employees are unable to take vacation time or are expected to work during vacations
If you want your team to be at its best, you will have to take the lead and create an environment where your team will be empowered to reach their potential and, not just function, but be able to thrive, grow, and flourish.
Make it your business to know your employees. Know their strengths and weaknesses, personality types, and goals and then figure out how you can set them on a path to success.
A study on workplace stress done by Monster.com reported that when asked, “What does your office do to help alleviate stress in the workplace?”, 66 percent answered, “Nothing.” Consider this with the 84 percent of people who stated the stress of their job has negatively impacted their personal lives in some way, and it paints an unpleasant picture. We can no longer pretend that people are as easily compartmentalized as our desktops.
If we want high performing teams who operate at their best, we have to actually care about whether or not they are at their best. Let’s start today.