The Great Resignation made it clear firms need to do more to foster employee wellbeing. As Arriana Huffington, the founder and CEO of behavior change technology company, Thrive Global, put it, “People aren’t just quitting their jobs, they’re rejecting the idea that burnout is the price they have to pay for success”. In fact, the pandemic merely accelerated a decade-long trend of employees rethinking their involvement and quitting. With 88% of employees saying that success is now, for them, conflated with working in a healthy working environment, employee wellbeing has seldom been more important for the success of a business. Missteps occur at every level of business. Recently, having fired half of twitter’s workers, Elon Musk had to very quickly ask some of those workers to return. Initial reporting suggests that the manner of their firing and relations with new management, have made them resistant. No business; regardless of its size, or the adulation in which management is held, is beyond making errors in fostering employee wellbeing.
Engage Your Employees
So embedded is the top-down style of management, that many managers respond to the need for improved employee wellbeing by announcing changes without consulting their employees. The first step to improving employee wellbeing is engaging with employees to hear what they have to say. The act of speaking with your employees and showing them that their input is valued and will be taken into consideration and acted upon, increases the sense of worth employees have and their trust in management.
Ask questions around employee health and lifestyle goals; motivations; principles of an ideal employee wellness program; strategies for improved employee wellness; measures and programs that they would like to see; and success measures for any employee wellness program. Any strategy will succeed because employees feel that their wellbeing has improved, and they are the best judges of that. Maybe they want access to annual physical exams, or gym membership, or the chance to work with a psychologist, or maybe they just wish you would stop emailing over the weekend. Whatever it is, it’s important to listen.
You should also establish regular meetings to check-in with your employees, to see that your initiatives are working and that any issues are dealt with quickly.
Defend their Mental Wellbeing
Work can be enormously stressful. As Arianna Huffington pointed out, many employees simply do not feel that burnout is a price worth paying for the money employees are making. Indeed, for many workers, a raise is simply not the answer: what’s the point in having lots of money if you are too burned out to enjoy it?
Burn out and even more extreme mental wellness challenges are often treated as being shameful, given that corporate culture fetishizes burning the midnight candle, being the first to arrive and the last to leave, and being able to deliver under incredible pressure. Employees who say, “hey, i’m struggling”, open themselves up to accusations that they can’t “cut it”. Employees are expected to give everything to their firms. Jamie Dimon, CEO of JP Morgan Chase, was criticized for saying that company workers needed to embrace working from the office and that working from home wasn’t right for people who want to “hustle”. While Dimon’s remarks may be right from a management standpoint, for employees, it suggests that the company comes first. That makes it hard to be open about mental wellbeing challenges.
You want to have a workplace culture that accepts that sometimes, workers have problems. As much as athletes suffer injuries and need to rest and recuperate, employees can get “injured” at work, and they need help recovering, and they need to be able to rest and recuperate.
That means providing access to mental health resources, from books, to specialists, and seminars teaching stress reduction methods such as meditation or yoga.
Be the Change You Want to See
Managers need to demonstrate their commitment to employee wellbeing with their own actions toward themselves and others. If employees see managers taking time to rest and recover, being open about mental wellbeing challenges, and using the resources the company makes available, employees will feel better about being open and using those resources.
In addition, in your relations with other people, as a manager, you should be encouraging, open, and non-judgmental. This will invite team leaders below you to adopt the same attitudes toward employees, and thus, your example will provide the basis of a cultural change.
You need to be the biggest advocate for and expert on the company’s mental wellbeing resources. If you use them and understand them, then, it will be easier to understand their limitations, employee experiences, what more needs to be done, and how to help your employees. You must be an enthusiastic lab rat for the company’s transformation. That will inspire your employees.