The work world has changed, and it’s not going back to the way it was. I recently read an article by Marcus Schwantes called, “How Covid-19 Exposed 3 Big Flaws in the Way We Work.” In it, he cited the 2020 Employee Care Report from employee experience software company, Limeade. Here are just a few of the staggering statistics:
- 44% of employees report feeling burned out.
- A burned-out employee is twice as likely to try to convince a coworker to leave their job.
- Millennials are twice as likely to disclose a mental health condition than those in the baby boomer generation.
Dr. Laura Hamill, chief people officer and chief science officer of Limeade, believes these numbers prove the need for a radical rethinking of work. “In the past, we’ve seen traditional HR practices largely treated as transactional,” said Hamill. “Now, employers are realizing, more than previously, that caring for employees is not just good for people, but good for business.” She went on to conclude, “Care has the power to be transformational.”
A NEW TAKE ON HUMAN RESOURCES
In our new era of remote working out of concern for physical health, we must take into account the mental health aspect, too. Whether at home or not, the mental well-being of any team member impacts the entire team, and, arguably, the company. Newly remote workers, struggling to find their way through a socially-distanced world, missing their coworker connections, and suffering from the constantly blurry lines between work life and home life, need real human resource support. They need far more than a human resource department focused on onboarding and ensuring compliance.
As a business therapist, I see a lot of companies who are trying to pick up the slack and take care of their teams by offering health and wellness perks and benefits. But now we are living in a world where gym memberships and other pre-COVID wellness programs are no longer enough. Employees are dealing with email fatigue, screen burnout, increased parental stress thanks to virtual schooling, and the persistent and real risk that someone in their family could get fatally sick any time.
FORGET THE PING-PONG TABLE
What’s the solution? Well, it won’t come overnight. As fast as our world has changed, it will take time to rebuild it. It also won’t look like what we already know. So, before you jump into offering solutions for your team, stop and take some time to listen to what they think would be most beneficial. It might not be what you think. For example, while recording a podcast the other day, I was asked about having ping-pong tables at work and whether or not that added to overall employee satisfaction. I had to hold back a laugh because, to me, the ping-pong tables are largely irrelevant in the grand scheme of things, and, from what I’ve heard from teams, the same is true for them.
What truly matters is supporting your team, and that means genuinely caring, listening to, hearing, and authentically connecting with individuals. It means paying attention to who they are, the concerns they have, and their ideas. A ping-pong table is never going to save a team’s well-being and mental health. Neither is a blanketed online survey to check in and see how your company can do better.
To get the kind of real, actionable feedback you need, where everyone speaks freely and honestly about their concerns, takes dedicated time and effort. Whether you try peer groups, individual conversations, or forums, the key is to get your team talking openly and honestly. Let them know it’s a safe space. Tell them their thoughts, ideas, and comments are welcomed. If your team is working remotely and people are feeling unsure about the future, let them know that, even though you don’t have all the answers for them, they are not alone in the relentless pursuit of purpose. Share with them that you know it’s tough to walk the line between home and work while working from home. Show them you empathize and understand how much effort and sacrifice they’ve already willingly given. Plant seeds of hope. But mostly, ensure they feel recognized and heard.
As you do, remember, it is not the vision, mission, or improvement of the company that makes it special.
It is the people within it.