Many companies have now begun to plan a return to office life again. For some it may be a strict all-office policy where as many others are planning a more hybrid work model. Whatever the details of the hybrid working set-up, companies must not underestimate or forget the overall wellness of their employees – whether they be in the office or not. Managers must have a swift, intentional and strategic mental health strategy for their employees.
Many companies worldwide, shifted to a remote work situation because of Covid-19 in the beginning of 2020. Now, nearly 18 months later, with the coronavirus vaccines becoming more widely available and hospitalization rates reduced, companies have begun to plan a return to the office.
With that being said, however, many companies, one of the most prominent being LinkedIn, have recently told their US- based employees that they will be able to work remotely on a permanent basis.1
“We’ve learned every individual and every team works differently, so we’re moving away from a one-size-fits-all policy,” Roslansky said in the post.
Some companies, like Apple, have been adopting a more hybrid approach as they announced back in May that they will require all their employees to be in the office Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays with the option of working from home Wednesdays and Fridays. Also Microsoft, LinkedIn’s parent company, announced in May that all of the 160,000 employees will be able to work 50% of the time from home.
Whatever the details of the hybrid working set-up, it is clear that employee’s expectations have changed from pre-covid working habits. FlexJobs ran a survey of more than 2,100 people who worked remotely during the pandemic from March 17, 2021 through April 5, 2021. They found that not only do employees want remote work post-pandemic but 58% say they would absolutely look for a new job if they weren’t allowed to continue working remotely in their current position. In addition, 65% of the people surveyed would like to work remotely full-time post-pandemic, and another 33% prefer a hybrid work arrangement.2
Although many companies are changing to hybrid work structures to satisfy employee demands, one very significant factor that cannot be forgotten or underestimated post-pandemic is the mental health and wellness of employees. According to a Hays Barometer Report, since the pandemic, 72 % of employers say their organisation’s focus on mental health and wellbeing has, out of necessity, increased either significantly or moderately during the pandemic. Despite this, 42 % of professionals rate their current mental health and wellbeing as positive, down from 63 per cent pre-outbreak. Therefore, despite this increased emphasis on wellbeing, many employees still find that although their productivity and efficiency have improved, their well-being has suffered. Mental health and wellbeing of employees must remain a primary concern for today’s employers.
What tools can employers use to help with their wellness culture?
Inspired by a blog from the Wellright.com, below are several strategies to help keep employee wellness and reduction of workplace stress at the forefront of manager’s minds.
- ‘Move-your-headquarters-online’ mentality – When everyone is based ‘online’ and not somewhere physical, the company’s mind-set changes. Communication and company updates must be accessible to everyone including the remote workers. Videoconferencing needs to be encouraged in order to maintain the workplace community.
- Make function the determining factor for the hybrid working model – Some functions or job responsibilities are naturally going to have to be performed in the workplace. For example, the lab scientist that needs to share special equipment. Make sure that management communicates the fact that in-person jobs are not more ‘important’ than jobs that lend themselves easier to a work-from-home model.
- Rewrite the employee manual/handbook – The clearer the rules are, the less stress and ambiguity for the employees.
Make sure that onboarding can be done in person or remotely and create guidelines for employees that include team building activities and meeting formats that account for the fact that employees will be participating from multiple locations.
Also, companies should give thought to some of the rules that may have changed now. For example, will the company allow employees to move to different cities if they are working remotely? Can they travel and work at the same time, or will they have to take time off? What about the effect of a possible time difference?
Also, consider a possible stipend to allow workers to buy needed home office supplies.
- Choose a yearly wellness challenge that can improve employee comradery as well as improve health but that can easily be done or followed online. com has many wellness challenge ideas that can easily be modified to a more on-line twist.
- Beef up mental health services – Encourage supervisors to check in with their employees during weekly one-on-one meetings. In fact, companies need to ‘remove the shame’ and acknowledge that mental health is a factor that contributes to overall corporate success. The more comfortable your organization is with the subject, the more likely your employees will seek out and receive the resources they need. Perhaps companies could have one or more mental first-aiders.
- Promote healthy habits – no-screen breaks, taking all of their vacation allowance etc. Several digital portals already exist such as JLL’s ‘The hub’ in their Experience/Anywhere PMO system, that integrates directly into employees’ calendars and encourages them to lead a healthy life. This may include exercise and recipe ideas.
- Create a culture of empathy and grace – Make the time and space for employees to be there for each other. It is necessary to create a supportive culture that inspires engagement and loyalty, and may even encourage some impressive work-related outcomes.
Whatever the hybrid working model, companies need to have a wellness platform and program in place to support their employees. The benefit of taking care of employees will outweigh the costs. Recent research found that companies that adopted certain wellness initiatives were able to improve employee loyalty by 79%, helping retain top talent while saving the time, money, and resources needed for new hires. The effects of the pandemic are ongoing and with the new variants the end is still unknown which is why managers must have a swift, intentional and strategic mental health strategy for their employees. This will be key to ensuring employee engagement, mental health, productivity, and retention.
Source: 1 Silicon Valley Business Journal. https://www.bizjournals.com/sanjose/news/2021/08/02/linked-in-permanent-remote-work.html
2 Rachel Pelta: 2021. flexJobs Survey Finds Employees Want Remote Work Post-Pandemic; https://www.flexjobs.com/blog/post/flexjobs-survey-finds-employees-want-remote-work-post-pandemic/