With the world gradually returning to normal, employers are finding that normal isn‘t what normal used to be: the business world has been hit by a seismic shift it may not recover from.
The coronavirus pandemic has no doubt led to one of the biggest shake-ups in the corporate world in the last few decades. Organizations have been plagued in the last two years by major shifts that have disrupted business and threatened their profitability. From endless cycles of closures and re-openings to restrictions that change business models and structures, businesses have been altered in ways we could have only imagined. However, with the world gradually returning to normal, employers have found that normal isn‘t what normal used to be: the business world has been hit by a seismic shift it may not recover from.
During the pandemic’s peak, everything screeched to a halt. Employers scampered to adopt models to keep business going and, in many cases, this was at the expense of employee well-being and health. Employees soon spiraled down to the bottom of the food chain, hit by mass firings, furloughs, pay cuts, and forceful retirements. Those who were “lucky” to retain their jobs had to do much more for less.
But no sooner had business begun to slowly recover from the pandemic than the job market began to experience an unprecedented evolution: the Great Resignation. Millions of workers began to quit their jobs to pursue what they perceive as a better way of working. According to a recent Bureau of Labor Statistics report, the number of Americans quitting their jobs reached record highs in November 2021, when more than 4.5 million people walked off their jobs.
The Great Resignation is still sweeping through all sectors of the job market at different rates, but the motivation is the same: employees have experienced what could be best described as the great awakening, rediscovering themselves and what work should mean to them.
While many workers worked from home or survived on unemployment claims through the pandemic’s peaks, these professionals have forever redefined what “work-life” truly means. Dealing with the loss of family and friends due to the pandemic and the mental health impact of the health crisis forced many workers to rethink their whole life vis-à-vis “work.”
The result is that workers no longer want to burn out to get tasks done or secure the company’s bottom line, they want to lead a healthy life; workers no longer want to live from paycheck to paycheck working for a company that undervalues their health and does little to address emotional safety; employees no longer want to feel like merely a cog in the wheel of their organization, they want to be part of a team that values them and hears their voice.
According to the Corporate Wellness Magazine, at the core of the Great Resignation is dissatisfaction with the conventional work model and inadequate workplace wellness offerings. Employees now place a greater priority on their health and well-being, and this has become one of the key conversations and benefit determinants for employers looking to retain talent.
So here lies the new corporate priority, the new currency of the work experience, and the new driver of post-pandemic business success: a culture of wellness. How does your workplace culture impact your employees? What models and strategies are implemented in your company to safeguard employee safety and health? What role does emotional safety play in your well-being program? How does your company rank in diversity and inclusion? What metrics are you using and how often are you reevaluating?
It is not about creating short-term solutions to corporate health problems or reshuffling workers into a hybrid model; it is about weaving corporate wellness into the very fabric of work, essentially integrating health and safety into your organizational purpose, mission, and values as studies have shown a direct link between organizations focused on a higher purpose and their profitability.
Redefine your work culture
Your organizational culture upholds what your company stands for; it is furthered by your core values and is essential to getting your employees to be “all in,” which provides the extra push towards achieving outstanding results. Your work culture also greatly impacts employee well-being and health.
Research shows that many people suffer mental health problems caused by toxic work cultures. According to the American Psychological Association’s (APA) Work and Well-Being survey, 79 percent of employees experienced work-related stress resulting from toxic workplace culture, causing three in five workers to lose motivation and energy at work, and leaving 36 percent of workers with cognitive fatigue.
In fact, a new report has shown that toxic workplace culture is ten times more likely to drive employees away regardless of their pay. This is evident in a recent report from MIT Sloan Management Review, which found more employees quitting their jobs to run away from toxic workplace culture.
So, what are your plans to shift the paradigm in your office culture and ensure your organizational culture supports employee well-being? What are your strategies to lower burnout and employee stress? Does your organization support teamwork or encourage people to work and think in silos? How do your HR leaders design work models to ensure both employee productivity and well-being? Is gender, sexual, or religious discrimination rife at the workplace? Are you operating a work-first culture or one that is employee-centric? How resilient is your organization?
These are the essential points in re-evaluating and rebuilding your corporate culture for the post-pandemic era. It starts by building a work culture that puts the employees first, one focused on the growth and development of the individuals in the team, and then, in turn, the success of the company. You must begin to integrate values and initiatives that drive employees’ personal success while prioritizing appreciation and gratitude for corporate contributions.
Bernie Knobbe, senior vice president of global benefits & well-being at AECOM, which has more than 80,000 employees, shared his perspective, noting that “Global well-being has changed the way we support our employees and our business. Recognizing ‘return on investment’ has evolved beyond the traditional meaning to include ‘return on individual.’ To deliver meaningful and impactful benefits, we know well-being needs to be integrated into our daily business activities, and employees must feel supported to focus on their well-being throughout their day.”
This must also reflect in all segments of your organization. When you say “teamwork,” it must also reflect in how you model and design the in-person and remote workplace to facilitate relationships and productivity. Are your remote workers working in isolation, shut out as a result of a deficient feedback loop system? Create efficient communication channels to ensure everyone is looped in on what’s going on and everyone’s concerns are heard and acted upon.
Workplace policies should also reflect your corporate culture. Create policies that ensure your workplace is diverse and inclusive in its offerings. All HR operations, including recruitment, staff welfare, evaluation, and promotions should also mirror this key factor, integrating workers of different races, religious beliefs, sexual orientations, or cultures without any barriers of discrimination or prejudice.
These changes are integral to boosting employee well-being, engagement, and, in turn, productivity.
Revisit wellness offerings
The concern for health and well-being is at the heart of the massive shift within the corporate space. Workers are now drawn to employers that walk the walk when it comes to health and wellness offerings. How effective are your wellness initiatives? Are they being used at all by your workers, or do they only look good on PowerPoint presentations? Are they appropriate for all employees, or are remote workers being left out? These are important conversations to have with your employees in these evolving times.
Ramping up your wellness initiatives not only builds a healthier workforce, but it also lowers your healthcare spending and saves you more money. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, chronic diseases, including obesity, diabetes, and high blood pressure, cost U.S. employers $36.4 billion a year in lost productivity. A systematic review of 56 studies on worksite health programs also revealed that well-implemented workplace wellness initiatives can lead to more than 25 percent savings on absenteeism, healthcare costs, and disability management claims.
In the context of the pandemic, employees are in need of mental health offerings now more than ever. Stress, anxiety, and burnout are at an all-time high and work-life balance is at an all-time low. If your workplace wellness strategies do not offer robust mental health support, employees may turn the other way. Leverage solutions and platforms, including digital mental health platforms and employee assistance programs, to ensure mental well-being is adequately supported in your workplace.
Another effective tool for improving mental well-being in the workplace is building a strong community. Employees right now are seeking connection. They need ways to interact and have shared experiences. How can your programs close this gap?
Employers need to check in routinely with their workers and identify workers who may require help in dealing with personal or work-related issues. To achieve this, you must train your HR leaders to be better managers of your human capital to build a more cohesive and supportive work community.
Further, in today’s world of more hybrid and remote work models, you know you need to integrate more virtual wellness initiatives for your health program to be effective. Offer your workers more virtual health solutions to meet them where they are. These include virtual fitness classes, webinars, mindfulness classes, as well as increased access to telemedicine.
Employers are reimagining their approach to employee health and well-being, and in April thousands of employers will gather at the largest gather event in the country, The Healthcare Revolution 2022, where they will share and learn how everything will continue to change and evolve.
For your onsite workforce, you want to make wellness more visible. Create some sort of “wellness zone” in your workplace where workers can engage in group exercises, take naps, or even practice yoga. You could also bring in personal trainers to take your employees through individualized workouts for a more productive session.
For most workers, finance is another core wellness issue. According to the 19th Annual U.S. Employee Benefits Trends Study 2021 by MetLife, 86 percent of employees said that finances were a top source of stress for them now and in the future.
The study, titled “Redesigning the Employee Experience: Preparing the Workforce for a Transformed World,” revealed that employees who receive a benefits package that meets their needs from their employers are 41 percent more likely to feel resilient and 60 percent more likely to trust their employer’s leadership. In addition, more than 99 percent of employees who say their benefits plans are well communicated to them are more likely to feel valued and appreciated. Employers need a holistic approach to solving the wellness crisis in the workplace, evaluating and providing solutions across all facets of wellness.
Safeguard employee health
“While the workplace evolves and adapts to a new normal, savvy and resilient employers understand that employees are seeking more purposeful work as they reevaluate their personal choices and priorities, including affirming the importance of their safety, health, and wellbeing,” says Karen Timmons, Chief Executive Officer of Global Healthcare Accreditation.
Safety is the new watchword in the corporate circle, and it is becoming increasingly expanded in its definition and inclusion of workplace concepts. It includes physical and emotional safety, the feeling that work is not a petri dish for infections or a space that aggravates their fears and worries.
In the context of the pandemic, no employee wants to return to an office that increases their risk of COVID-19 or heightens their anxiety. With many variants and sub-variants emerging, one sure-fire way to attract and retain the best talents is ensuring your work environment is safe to work in.
The MetLife study found that 72 percent of employees say that their safety and protection and that of their families were more important to them than ever before. Likewise, a 2020 PwC survey showed that 70 percent of workers said that an unsafe environment with poor COVID-mitigation measures may prevent them from returning to work.
The survey found that employees want to see concrete workplace safety measures (including safety and hygiene measures for customers, a clear emergency response policy, and a modified workplace layout to limit droplet spread) before returning to work.
Employers are now gradually being drawn to these pointers and changing the narrative of safety and health at the workplace.
“Northern Arizona Healthcare has built a live culture of health, safety, and well-being,” says Mitch Martens, wellness manager of population health at Northern Arizona Healthcare. “This means we are constantly growing, learning, and evolving with the world around us, instead of depending on a defined policy or procedure that ‘has always worked’. During these challenging times, NAH prides itself on fusing head and heart with evidence-based practices as we continue to instill trust and confidence with the community we serve.”
Building the right workplace safety and health protocol requires equipping your HR leaders with the requisite training in and knowledge of COVID-risk mitigation, integrating vital initiatives into your work operations to limit the spread of the virus. One way to get this done is to create a clear and workable policy that promotes a COVID-19-free work environment. Are you going to require full vaccinations for your workers? If yes, explain in detail what the requirements are as well as acceptable exemptions and implications of defying the rule.
In creating these strategies, keep in mind, however, that you want minimal disruption to business; if you want workers getting tested regularly, ensure you leverage digital platforms that allow seamless test booking and result retrieval without getting your workers out of work unnecessarily.
Also, you need to build a clear and effective emergency response plan. The pandemic is still happening, and HR leaders need to be equipped with the right information to deal with any COVID-19 emergencies that may arise at the workplace. What protocols are outlined for when an employee tests positive for COVID-19? What protocols are in place for when an entire team contracts the virus?
Creating clear policies that answer these questions ranks you as an employer that is committed to keeping workers safe amid the pandemic.
GHA for business
No doubt, these unrivaled times for the corporate world require a new set of skills and tools to attract and retain the best talents and keep business operations optimal. Global Healthcare Accreditation launched GHA For Business to achieve this goal for organizations. Packed with 16 elements that help business leaders rethink and rebuild their culture, employee wellness policies, and vision, GHA For Business provides organizations the requisite tools to become more resilient and effective at prioritizing safety, health, and well-being.
“GHA For Business provides organizations with a framework, using transparent communications, engagement, and meaningful initiatives and actions that the organization can leverage to better align the expectations and needs of employees with the culture, mission, and values of the organization,” says Timmons. “Additionally, GHA’s external third-party validation will build trust, confidence, and loyalty on the part of employees toward their employer.”
The accreditation demonstrates to your employees and prospective clients that you value them as individuals first and that you are committed to their safety, health, and well-being, ultimately making your organization one of the best to work with.
“We believe part of building that trust for our staff and patients came by earning the accreditation seal through Global Healthcare Accreditation for Business, a third-party global accreditation organization,” says Martens. “It gives our employees a sense of pride to know they work for an organization dedicated to their wellbeing, and our community can be assured, their safety and health is our priority.”
“The healthcare industry will always be challenged to ride the waves of new diseases, costs, politics, and community needs. But with quality care as our rudder and our mission/vision for our sails, we will confidently charter people to places of hope, discovery, and longevity,” he adds.
To navigate the uncertain corporate landscape of the post-pandemic era, GHA For Business equips business leaders and managers with the tools, procedures, protocols, and training required to address the growing demand for health and safety in the workplace. From COVID-19 risk mitigation strategies to tools to attract, retain, and engage the best talents in the industry, GHA For Business is the new gold-standard framework for a thriving post-pandemic organization.