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How smart businesses are addressing employee well-being

How to improve employee well-being -- and your company

4 min read


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Unleashing a few of my unspoken job frustrations via a company HR survey recently didn’t result in a raise. But getting them off my chest actually loosened up the workplace stress I’ve been storing in my shoulders, neck and jaw. Is it possible that addressing employee well-being is as simple as sending out a survey?

Well, no — but it’s a savvy move and part of a much larger well-being program from a company that takes a holistic view of its employees. Stress and unhappiness create roadblocks to creativity and innovation. A good well-being program can address employees’ mental, physical, social, emotional and economic health.

Too many workers don’t have a company or a boss that’s invested employee well-being. In fact, 40% of workers worldwide are so worn down by their jobs that they think success isn’t possible without burnout. Folks, we’re in the midst of a Great Resignation. Workers are quitting due to low pay, lack of advancement and employer disrespect. Employee well-being isn’t just a nice little bonus; it’s imperative.

Innovative ways to address employee well-being

Smart companies and organizations realize they need to “re-recruit our people and let them know they’re valued,” PMI Worldwide Chief People Officer Tammy Perkin writes. Here’s how a few are doing it.

Create space for social connections

Employees can feel more connected at companies that have internal communication apps like Slack, team-building efforts and employee resource (aka affinity) groups. Asurion and Golden Hippo have highly touted ERGs. These measures work best when a company has a strong corporate culture to sustain them. And buy-in for the concept needs to start at the top.

Stop micromanaging

Patagonia and Ritz-Carlton are known for their focus on employee autonomy. Collective Health of San Francisco also believes in giving employees discretion and autonomy. Stripping away layers of unnecessary reporting and approvals can save companies money and make employees more satisfied with their jobs.

Give employees a breather

The company I work for, as well as Netflix, Oracle and others, have unlimited time off (which sounds baffling but somehow works).

Top executives from seven nonprofit organizations in Pittsburgh are getting a three-month sabbatical. The goal? To “allow for professional development, big thinking and much-needed rest and rejuvenation,” says Sam Reiman of the Richard King Mellon Foundation, which is funding the executives’ temporary replacements.

Make professional development routine

LinkedIn and other companies include professional development on employees’ calendars, actually creating rituals, rather than making workers upskill on their own time. Many studies show — and many executives know — that employees are more likely to stay at a company that encourages and provides career development.

Coaching and mentoring fall into this category too.

Reduce busy work

Employees easily eat up half a day searching for information; tracking down updates; talking to others about work; switching among priorities; and fielding emails, calls and notifications, an Asana survey notes. That explains why “purposeful work and supportive cultures have emerged as key retention-driving aspects of the employee experience,” EHS Today reports, citing a MetLife study.

After all, everyone wants their work to be meaningful. And busy work is not meaningful.

Some companies understand this. MaRS Discovery District, Herbivore Botanicals and others are increasing efficiency and reducing needless tasks. McKinsey explains how companies can streamline interactions.

Embrace flexible work environments

Workers value employers who do away with just-in-time scheduling so they can better plan their family life. Verizon, GitHub, Citizens Bank, Salesforce and many other companies have adopted hybrid work schedules.

Is revamping the entire scheduling process worth the hassle? Yes, if growth is important to you. According to an Accenture study, almost 70% of “negative or no-growth companies are still focused on where people are going to physically work.” They’re stuck in the pre-pandemic era, demanding that workers be either all remote or all on-site instead of offering hybrid schedules. That’s taking a company-first rather than team-first view. It’s not only antiquated but can be detrimental in the long run for the company. (See “Great Resignation” above.)

Viewing employees as valued team members in your organization’s success — and not just a means to an end — can pay metaphorical and literal dividends. Well-being programs can help that happen.

Diane Benson Harrington is an education and workforce writer at SmartBrief. Reach out to her via email or LinkedIn.

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