The events of 2020 highlighted how vitally important employee wellbeing is.
Almost overnight, employees had to change how and where they worked, putting businesses under pressure to provide them with the tools and technology they needed to make the switch.
This has seen employee health and wellbeing become the centre of decision-making, as shown in the results from our 2020 Future Ready Report
When asked about their top five priorities in 2020, the most common answers respondents gave were ‘financial stability’ (68%), ‘employee health and wellbeing’ (62%) and ‘protecting jobs and salaries’ (59%).
More than three-quarters (77%) of businesses now see promoting employee wellness and mental health as important – up from 71% in November 2019.
And when investing in new technology, ‘Future Ready Businesses were disproportionately likely to give ‘promoting employee wellness and mental health’ as the reason.
This isn’t something that is going away. Employees are expecting more and businesses need to deliver, and there are several things businesses can do to help meet those expectations.
A report by Gallup found that in the US, disengaged employees cost companies about $350bn a year. About $2,246 per disengaged employee.
So it makes sense that a more engaged workforce will improve business results.
For a start, engaged and happy employees are more likely to create a better work environment, reducing disruption between teams and creating a place employees enjoy.
They’re also more productive, seeing new tasks and challenges as an opportunity, rather than something else to add on the to-list.
Furthermore, employee engagement is very much linked to employee wellbeing. Taking time to acknowledge achievements to ensure employees feel appreciated, for example, can motivate them more.
You could also promote collaboration between teams so employees feel part of something bigger and not like isolated cogs in a machine.
This has always been important but is even more so now as employees work in different locations and away from colleagues. The potential for them to feel isolated is greater than ever.
A report by Salesforce found that employees who feel they have a voice in their company are nearly five times more likely to produce their best work.
It makes sense that employees who feel that their employer has their best interest at heart will work harder to get results for that employer.
A 2020 Gallup survey found that 63% of remote employees (who worked remotely 80% to 100% of the time) said they were more engaged when receiving feedback a few times a week from their managers.
That’s compared to 47% who received feedback a few times a month.
Much of this is about the culture of the organisation, but it’s important to recognise the role that better technology can play in enabling that culture.
For example, allowing employees and managers to connect using their preferred method of communication, whether that’s voice, email or video. This ensures that employees who prefer face-to-face feedback can receive it — even if it’s via video — and meetings can still go ahead online.
Overall, absenteeism from workplace stress cost teams about $300bn a year — and of those that take time off, disengaged employees are the most likely to do so.
Now there are a few reasons why this happens: first is demotivation. Employees who feel a lack of motivation at their work or in life may take time off for minor issues which otherwise wouldn’t prevent them from working.
The second reason — which is much more serious — is that demotivated employees are more likely to suffer negative mental health and be forced to take time off.
This was particularly true during 2020 when employees faced so much uncertainty over their jobs and their general health. Many were working from home for the first time away from colleagues and adjusting to new ways of doing things.
Some would have faced further disruption due to schools being closed, lack of available childcare, or the need to care for other relatives.
One way to tackle issues of motivation is to promote better communication between teams. Especially for managers who should be checking in with members of staff regularly to make sure they are dealing with their workload, and figuring out how best to help them.
Even organising weekly catch-ups between teams, where members can raise concerns they have and brainstorm solutions with their colleagues could be enough to reduce stress and keep employees motivated.
Similarly, offering flexible working hours, so employees can fit personal tasks in during the day, or providing employees with ‘mental health days’ that they can use as sick days, could help them to destress and not focus on work.
According to our Future Ready Report, 77% of companies expect training, technology and flexible working to be the most critical areas of focus of attracting or retaining staff in the future.
This matches with many expectations of the workforce.
According to one US study, employees who feel they have found a good work/life balance would expect an extra $10,000 per year to work more than they currently do.
But considering the current challenges presented by remote working when it comes to the work/life balance, this becomes an even bigger issue.
Whether it’s helping employees set barriers between working hours and home life, or helping them manage expectations, employees now expect a higher level of support from their companies.
This could be as simple as allowing flexible working so employees can deal with personal matters during work hours, whether it’s dealing with childcare, or taking time to look after a loved one.
Businesses should be clear about whether employees can take advantage of these benefits and be clear on any procedures that need to be followed - like giving a few days notice when possible or marking time off in calendars for personal tasks.
This has several benefits to both employees and businesses. Parents or carers would likely feel the benefits of flexible working if they knew they could easily fit their work around childcare or caring duties.
Finding new employees is disruptive and time-consuming. That’s why businesses are focussing on retaining existing staff.
Our Future Ready Report found that 64% of businesses say the percentage of over-60s in their workforce is likely to increase. Retraining is the most common way businesses say they’ll approach this challenge.
It also found that ‘good training’ and ‘flexible working hours’ are the two areas businesses are most focussed on to attract and keep staff – they rank higher even than ‘opportunities for advancement’.
So it’s concerning that one study found that 63% of businesses say they find it harder retaining employees than finding new ones.
There are numerous business benefits to low staff turnover.
Higher morale and less disruption are the obvious ones. Current employees have also built up good relationships with clients and customers and are also familiar with your processes and ways of working.
A simple way to keep employees engaged when it comes to career progression is to sit down with them and outline expectations.
Employees will often lose interest if they feel like they are just going through the motions, but by providing them with clear goals and objectives, they have something to work towards and an understanding of where they are.
Again, this can be supplemented with regular video calls — for remote employees — where they can relay any concerns or just catch-up with managers on their workload.
Our Future Ready report also identified several key issues when it comes to recruitment.
For example, half of large businesses recognise that to recruit younger employees they’ll need to appeal more to their core beliefs. Whether it’s promoting flexible and remote working, or standing for a bigger purpose through their corporate social responsibility.
Looking again at our Future Ready Report, 41% of all businesses intend to target a much broader spectrum of ages. Future Ready Businesses come in slightly higher at 49%.
And across the board, businesses are also looking at increasing international recruitment efforts and considering more neurodiverse candidates moving forward.
Part of this comes back to the motivation factor of engaged employees.
If an employee is engaged and happy in what they’re doing, they’re more likely to take on the extra tasks and recommend people for new roles.
As an example, a younger employee who feels they work for an organisation that shares their values is more likely to engage with that business and grow with them and continue adding value in the long-term as they get more experience.
Similarly, employees who are staying in work longer will expect to have continued opportunities for development, rather than just staying at the same skill or responsibility level.
In the past, employee engagement was viewed as very much in the realm of HR.
Today, it’s a business-critical issue.
As with many modern business practices, the answer to employee engagement can be found in technology.
However your company deals with health and wellbeing, you’ll need the right digital health tools to promote better engagement and get better outcomes from your employees.
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