More than three-quarters of businesses (77%) see supporting employee wellness and mental health as important, according to our Future Ready Report. And while that’s an increase of only 6% from 71% in November 2019 — the numbers are rising across the board.
In 2020, 90% of businesses said they had taken some form of action to give their employees extra support during the COVID-19 pandemic. But, with remote working looking to continue long-term, the risk of employees feeling isolated is much higher.
Health and safety in the workplace is a critical, complex issue, but the health and safety of remote teams is just as important — if not more so.
In one study, 79% of employees said they’d experienced work-related stress in 2020, an increase of 20% from 2018.
So, what can employers do to continue supporting their teams more in this work environment in the long-term? And how can they combine technology, their processes and workplace culture to create a foundation for better employee health and wellness?
More than a fifth of global workers say that loneliness and isolation is the biggest negative factor of remote working.
This isn’t so much an emotional problem as it is a structural one within an organisation.
We’ve all become more familiar with using video conferencing to communicate with teams and customers; now we need to figure out how these forms of communication fit within the wider collaboration picture.
For example, by improving access to collaboration tools – like cloud-based software such as Microsoft Teams and Google Drive – and combining them with better communication platforms like video calls and screen sharing, teams can pick and choose how they communicate and collaborate based on what works best for them.
By giving employees more ways to connect with their teams, businesses can continue to improve overall staff wellbeing.
About 70% of employees say that flexible working has helped them maintain a better work-life balance and improved their feeling of wellbeing.
Remote working has ended the restrictions of traditional working hours and removed the stress of being available during set working hours.
For example, at Vodafone, we’ve introduced new employee wellbeing plans allowing people to block out time in the day to take care of any personal matters like child care, homeschooling and supporting relatives or friends who might be self-isolating.
In the last year, employees have shown they can be productive and stay on top of their work, even if using time in the day to complete personal tasks.
For newer employees now entering the workplace, it wouldn’t even occur to them that they wouldn’t be offered flexibility around work hours, or how or where they work.
They expect these benefits to be included — and companies not offering this as standard will lose out on talent in the future.
Also, as long as tasks are completed, many employees expect a degree of freedom when it comes to fitting their personal lives around work. These things are no longer seen as a ‘bonus’. They’re now expected as standard practice.
By being more flexible with work hours, and trusting employees, businesses can see the benefits of more productivity, while helping improve employee wellbeing.
Employees who feel isolated are less likely to be productive and their wellbeing and mental health are more likely to suffer.
While messaging platforms can be effective for teams to stay in touch, there is a need to maintain regular face-to-face contact with employees, whether it’s face-to-face, or over video.
Employers need to put more focus on checking in with employees.
Considering that 60% of employees have reported feeling lonely in the last year, it’s a problem that businesses need to focus on.
In the future, these personal catch-ups will be adapted to meet the needs of individual employees.
For some, it will simply be a matter of regular video catch-ups.
For others, it will be businesses making use of meeting spaces and planning office-based working for specific, collaborative tasks, for example preparing new business reports or creating annual plans in departments.
What we can be sure of, is that ‘the office’ will be more of a meeting area than something employees are expected to travel to every day.
One of the biggest causes of anxiety in times of uncertainty is a lack of communication.
Just knowing what is going on around them can help make employees feel more in control.
For example, during the pandemic, employees needed to know quickly what government announcements or new restrictions would mean for them coming into work or remaining at home.
This meant internal comms needed to be quickly prepared and sent out to keep people up-to-date and calm about what was happening with their jobs.
When it comes to communication while working remotely, employers have more communication options than ever before. The challenge is finding the right mix.
Whether it’s creating a central hub for employees to use to find answers to frequent questions, or stay updated on policies and procedures, or using video conferencing for company updates – employers have several options available to them.
With the right technology and communications infrastructure, businesses can create workplaces that support employee engagement and wellbeing.
Of course, updating technology or rewriting processes is just one part of a much more complex employee wellness issue. It’s important to combine these with a new culture that focuses on wellness and communication.
One that redefines productivity and work/life balance to enable employees to complete their work efficiently, while fitting their professional lives better around their personal lives.
Employees today fully expect a better work/life balance and more choice of whether they work from a central place, or another location.
New employees in particular are far more likely to see a company culture and how they manage employee satisfaction and work balance as a key part of choosing where they work.
For these employees, they fully expect businesses to have and use the technology available to offer flexibility around work and personal lives.
Company culture has long been creeping up the priorities of businesses. COVID-19 moved it front and centre and it’s now time to adapt quickly or fall behind in the race for the best talent.
Find out more about aligning tools, processes and culture to build a healthy and productive workplace in our new guide.
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