As companies navigate the modern working world and strive to attract the top talent in their fields, it’s become increasingly important for them to support employee wellbeing in addition to fostering their professional development. However, for the companies with wellbeing initiatives underway, the focus is too often primarily on physical health, with executives’ support expressed through sponsored gym classes or healthy meals in the office kitchen.
That’s now changing. Catalyzed by Covid-19, there’s been a fundamental shift in the ways professionals view corporate wellbeing, with a newfound emphasis on mental and emotional health. As people continue working from home (potentially for the long term), the pressures of work can feel inescapable, consequently hindering productivity and depressing moods. It’s challenging to draw a line between the professional and personal time when a kitchen table doubles as a desk, and consequently employees may be feeling overburdened even if their workloads haven’t changed dramatically.
At tech companies, in particular, where work hard, play hard mentalities have ranked supreme for some time, and companies are set on achieving hypergrowth—it’s more important than ever for employers to offer programs that encompass mental and emotional wellbeing in addition to physical. Here’s how companies can take a holistic approach to wellbeing in 2021 and beyond.
1. Create an Open, Reassuring Atmosphere
Discussing mental and emotional wellbeing can often be regarded as taboo, especially in a professional environment, which means that the first step in supporting employees’ wellbeing is simply acknowledging that it deserves attention. By vocalizing their commitment to mental and emotional wellbeing, executives create a work environment in which employees feel comfortable speaking up about challenges they may be facing so that the company can work with them on how to remedy the situation. Solutions could include time off, adjustments to workloads, more regular check-ins with mentors, or even a referral to the company’s Employee Assistance Program.
Because not every executive or even HR professional is going to be a master in promoting wellbeing, companies can offer tools that empower employees to tend to their health on their own terms.
Another benefit of speaking openly about wellbeing initiatives is that employees are encouraged to share their feedback on what’s working and what they still need, so that companies can ensure the programs they’re investing in the matter to employees and that resources aren’t being spent when a different solution may be more appreciated.
2. Offer Educational Opportunities
When it comes to employee wellbeing, simply advising individuals to take care of their health isn’t enough. Like other skills, taking care of one’s own wellbeing needs to be learned. Companies can offer regular programs like Lunch and Learn on how to approach common stressors (e.g., working from home as a parent). These programs should cover a variety of topics since some employees will prefer physical wellbeing programs like stretching sessions or guided meditation, while others may want more introspective or skills-based lessons (e.g., how to better manage their schedules). Additionally, because some employees may be struggling to divide their days between professional and personal needs, explicitly carving out time for the purpose of wellbeing ensures employees are in fact taking that time away from work activities.
For global organizations, educating employees on different business cultures and social norms from around the world can alleviate the stress individuals sometimes feel in interpersonal engagements. These insights inspire greater empathy and collaboration between staff, which results in a more understanding and cooperative place of work.
3. Use Tech to Support Employee Workloads
While companies can adopt initiatives that help their employees tackle stress already present in their lives, there are also ways they can further unburden staff by updating the way work gets done. With automation programs integrated into their workflows to execute the more tedious and manual aspects of their jobs (e.g., software testing), employees will have more time in their day to focus on strategic work that drives the business forward. Especially as many employees work-from-home, outside of the traditional office structure, having automation to, say, source relevant data so employees don’t have to search through numerous files when building a new application can significantly reduce instances of burnout.
Beyond its global toll, the coronavirus outbreak has created an unprecedented slew of professional stressors that, when compounded with traditionally intense work environments, can quickly become overwhelming. If companies hope to retain employees during this time—while also promoting productivity and satisfaction within their roles—it’s imperative business leaders invest in holistic wellbeing initiatives that demonstrate to staff that their multitude of needs is cared for.