Employee wellness is changing. To be fair, it was always an evolving concept. But in recent times, the tailspin called Covid-19 has expedited that change. Let’s quickly recap some of the changes that have occurred at the workplace in the last year. The majority of the workforce is now working from home. Surprisingly, working hours have increased. Productivity has dropped. Stress and burnout are at an all-time high. One in five Australians has suffered from mental health problems in 2020.
The question is, are you as an employer equipped to deal with it? Here’s an eye-opener. The pandemic is here to stay. The government is making all efforts to inoculate a majority of the population. But it might be another year before the world returns to pre-pandemic normal. Even then, most experts hint that remote working is here to stay.
In such a work environment, business leadership has to step up. They must take proactive decisions towards creating employee wellness programs aimed at the future. Today, we take a look at the changing role of business leadership in these trying times.
29,000 Australians discontinued their health insurance in 2020. The reasons are many. Postponement of elective surgeries. Dental health was unavailable. The world locked itself indoors trying to avoid the pandemic. This led to the deferment of mandatory health checkups for a large number of people.
A recent study reveals an ominous trend for the next year or two. There might be a sudden spurt in advanced-stage diseases like cancer in 2021. That’s not all. Deferred care for chronic conditions such as diabetes and obesity can also result in escalated healthcare costs. Type-2 diabetes alone costs Australians $6-billion annually.
There’s a silver lining amongst all these grim numbers though. These predictions allow employers to take remedial action now. Business leadership can use these statistics to take preventive action. Leadership in Australia has traditionally been the motivator. They’ve been the mentor. Mostly, the role model. At times, the boss that the workforce loves to hate. Seldom the ‘supportive crutch’ though. This might be a great time to switch into that role. Be the leader that prioritizes health care.
Reevaluate your healthcare offerings to close any evident gaps. Make healthcare screenings accessible and easy. Tie-up with healthcare partners who can offer at-home screenings for common conditions. It’s equally important that your workforce prioritize these screenings. Leadership can provide the necessary impetus. You do not have to rely on traditional communication channels either. With the bulk of the workforce at home, open a multi-channel communication program. Use constant data analytics to gauge the success of these channels. Scale the ones that are most effective.
Business leadership leading from the front has many advantages. It reassures the workforce that the employer cares for their health. It’s not merely numbers and statistics. Secondly, it’s a terrific motivator for the workforce to start prioritizing their health.
Here’s an interesting statistic. Remote working has affected businesses differently. Some businesses have thrived, while others have struggled. We can’t blame anybody for struggling to cope with these unprecedented changes. But we surely can learn from it. The teams that have struggled have blamed the lack of social interaction. Time and again, we underestimate the importance of informal interactions at the workplace.
Remember bumping into your colleagues at the water cooler? Sharing insider gossip in the break room? Those informal interactions are the key to cohesiveness or a feeling of connectedness. Unfortunately, the pandemic has shattered these interactions. With it, the feeling of connectedness has dissipated too.
In cohesive teams, there’s a pooling of individual members’ strengths. This more or less compensates for the weaknesses. But if the team feels disjointed, they are more likely to struggle as the study reveals. What about the businesses that have thrived then? Well, they have adapted the informal, authentic interactions into the virtual space.
Virtual breaks, online games, book clubs & sharing audio playlists are some of the ways. While the very idea of a virtual informal meet seems shallow, it works. That’s despite the fact that these meetings are not spontaneous. Once again, this is a great opportunity for leadership to initiate these meetings. Some awkwardness in the early stages is a given. But eventually, your workforce might start to feel involved.
75% of Australian workers experienced burn out during the pandemic. There are numerous theories about the probable reasons. Apart from what we’ve mentioned already, there are other pressing causes too. The average overtime for the workforce jumped from 236-hours in 2019 to a whopping 436-hours globally.
85% of the workforce suffered from ‘imposter syndrome.’ This is when self-doubt begins to creep in about one’s accomplishments. Here’s the irony. Despite all the extra hours clocked, productivity may not have surged. 89% of Australians missed one in four deadlines.
All of this points towards a disturbing trend. Workers are feeling the brunt of working remotely. They feel desolate. To add to this, they are spending additional hours in unproductive meetings. Most businesses around the world focused extensively on in-office wellness perks. Unfortunately, these are ineffective or just useless in the current workspace. That’s why businesses must focus on making employee wellness programs available anywhere. There are many ways to achieve this without overhauling your existing program.
Look for a wellness partner that offers flexible one-on-one virtual sessions. It can be yoga, pilates, meditation or any activity for that matter. These need not always be live sessions either. Even recorded sessions by qualified trainers are very effective. There are three activities that address most of the challenges that the workforce faces currently.
Yoga is a very underrated wellness activity. Most people have misconceptions about it. Some believe that it is for fitness models who can stretch 180-degrees. Others think that it’s a buzzword driven by hype. Neither is true. Yoga offers unparalleled benefits for the body and mind. In fact, we cannot think of a more complete activity in current times. There are three reasons why.
1. It is progressive – Yoga can start off from simple breathing exercises. However, in a span of weeks, it can progress into intense physical activity. That depends completely on the comfort and progress of the employee though. The point is, that most employees find it easy to fit into a yoga class, irrespective of their existing skills or the lack of it. Also, yoga doesn’t need any special equipment. They can do remote yoga sessions at any time at home.
2. It is immensely beneficial for postural problems – Incessant sitting can be detrimental to the spine. The average Australian employee sits for 6.3 hours. With the added work hours, that number might only have increased. It’s no wonder that 80-90% of the Australian population experiences back pain. Yoga allows your workforce to stretch their tense muscles. Be it the back, the shoulder or the hamstrings, yoga can help alleviate pain.
3. It reduces stress – Last but not least, yoga is a stress buster. It also helps reduce depression symptoms. There can be no better time to add yoga to your employee wellness program. It will help your workforce cope with the existing burnout. It will also help them build resilience towards common stressors.
Yoga blends seamlessly with meditation and mindfulness. Both are activities with proven mental health benefits.
Back to back virtual meetings leave employees frazzled. How about scheduling a group wellness meeting once a week? As always we recommend that the leadership actively participates. Again, you can choose the activity. Yoga & mindfulness top our list of recommendations though. Do not look at the participation as a marketing gimmick either. Both yoga and mindfulness offer a plethora of benefits for business leaders. It can help you transition from a hard-charging, demanding leader to a calmer and more generous person.
It helps improve focus. Mindfulness rests your brain and mind. It can help with time management. Rather than spending additional hours in front of the computer, you can improve productive work time. Get more out of the hours you spend working. If both the leader and the employee are overworked, business decisions suffer.
With regular mindfulness sessions, you don’t feel overwhelmed anymore. Rather than being anxious and pressed for time, you will feel relaxed. You accept suggestions, reward achievements and limit prejudices.
The most important reason for mindfulness training is resilience. Let’s face it. Stress is not going anywhere. Neither are the gizmos that surround us. The best we can do is build our defences. Learn how to deal with stressors and anxiety triggers.
Happy Melon has always offered flexible employee wellness programs. Why, it’s as if we foresaw this change. Our programs are delivered remotely to your workforce, no matter where they are. They have the option to choose from private sessions or recorded ones. We offer a plethora of team activities too. These include specialized mindfulness training and one on one sessions for business leaders. Speak to us now to know how we can help you prepare an employee wellness initiative for the future.