COVID-19 has changed the way of working and the priorities in the workplace.
These times of social distancing and lockdown measures have had an impact on employee well-being, either in terms of their financial situation, physical health or experienced boredom. Specifically among Australian families, the stress levels have more than doubled amid the coronavirus outbreak, with Melbourne hitting nearly 400 per cent in some suburbs.
As a consequence, organisations have the big challenge of helping the workforce to adapt to their newly altered work environments, while ensuring their efficient and effective functionality, despite the inability to hold physical meetings and the restrictions of movement. At the same time, the current pandemic has the potential risk of intensifying the levels of work, requiring employees to cope with extra tasks, working extra hours, and blurring the boundaries between the personal and the professional environment because of remote working, which at the end may cost a lot in terms of their happiness, health, and well-being.
Despite the crisis having this huge impact on mental health, being the main cause for sickness absence and long-term work incapacity in Australia, only 29% of organisations actually have a health and well-being strategy. So that’s why organisations must have a further look at employees’ well-being today.
Why employees’ well-being is important
Having a wellness strategy in place not only helps mitigate the risks associated with periods of change, but also has positive impacts for both employees and the organisation. Among the most important impacts are:
- Higher performance and productivity at work. It is proven that people reach their best performance only when they have high levels of psychological well-being and job satisfaction.
- Helping recovery. For those living with a mental illness, work can play an important role in helping them recover. Many mental illnesses that we see in the workplace are treatable and, in some cases, preventable.
- Attract and retain great talent. Companies that invest in mental health are more likely to attract and retain the best and brightest people.
- Employee well-being drives profit. Decrease in staff turnover, recruitment, and training costs; fewer sick leave days; increased productivity and creativity are good for businesses, at the end, employee well-being translates into increased revenue and reduced costs.
So, keeping in mind the relevance that mental health is obtaining during these times, what can organisations do to support their workforce as they face stress and uncertainty? Here’s our advice.
How Creativity can promote employee well-being
The good news is that there are many tools and measures around creativity that companies can use to enhance employees’ mental health and well-being.
Promote spaces for self-reflection and self-awareness. Becoming self-aware is central to developing emotional intelligence and creative thinking. It means that being able to become aware of personal thoughts, is a key piece to understanding ourselves and proactively managing feelings and actions. Offering spaces and tools where employees can perform this type of exercise will entail benefits such as an increase in proactivity, idea generation and better decision-making skills at work given by a higher self-confidence.
Support employees in their personal goals and challenges. Personal well-being is proportional to the presence of goals in pursuit. Establishing personal and professional goals, big or small, and having something to work on, makes the outside noise easier to manage. In that sense, employees who believe that their company cares for them perform better. For the millennial generation of workers, which is projected to take up 75% of the workforce by 2025, it is paramount that their employer is aligned with their lifestyle and supports them to develop not just in the professional aspect but also in different areas of personal development, such as intellectual, creative, affective, moral, and social.
Open times for disruption and creativity. According to the World Economic Forum, creativity is among the top 10 skills required for workers in 2025 (it has been on the list during the last decade) and it is also related to other skills such as complex problem solving, analytical thinking, and resilience. Promoting the development of creativity related skills in employees would provide them with better tools to face challenges in their workplace and personal life, like coming up with new ideas to overcome boredom and monotony, and would strengthen them as innovation drivers.
Provide tools and measures that encourage self-scheduling and time management. In this fast-paced world, people want to overperform in the different aspects of their lives and still feel balance and filled with inner peace. However, in their day-to-day routine, having so many things in mind becomes a bit disturbing, as it’s hard to set boundaries, agendas do not align with priorities, and frustration and anxiety may take the centre stage. Allowing collaborators to be autonomous with their time and providing them with time management tools, like trackers and scheduling training, can help employees prioritise activities, increase their productivity, and develop a creative approach that lets them find balance and meaning in life.
Encourage and model healthy habits. Habits are an unconscious set of thoughts, behaviours, and emotions acquired by frequent repetition. Keeping this in mind, the encouragement of healthy habits, like taking a walk in the middle of the day, doing exercise in the morning, or having a therapy appointment, it’s a great reminder for wellness. In addition to this, if managers and leaders model these behaviours by sharing them with other employees, it can make the team feel they can prioritise self-care and set limits.
Provide tools to track progress. According to the University College of London, it takes us 66 days to automate a new habit. Hence, a lot of energy, determination, and patience. By providing employees with tools like habit trackers, it is more likely for them to resist giving up and continue to do it several times. Additionally, organisations can create group challenges like “15 days walking team” or the “one-month workout buddy”, where goals are likely to be completed with greater ease, and the sense of community support is strengthened.
Facilitate spaces for experimentation of new ideas and community building. In order to embrace chaos, it is very important for organisations to enable a culture that opens spaces for the implementation of new ideas, encourages small steps, celebrates small victories, allows failure, and facilitates feedback. This will empower employees to take action at professional and personal level. Additionally, employee resource groups are a great start if there’s not enough budget to invest in training as it increases awareness, builds community, and offers peer support.
Invest in training. Before the pandemic, companies like Verizon and Morrison & Foerster were enabling the creation of mentally healthy cultures, which help them navigate the current uncertainty that has unfolded. According to HBR, organisations need to prioritise proactive and preventive mental health training for leaders, managers, and individual collaborators. It is necessary to reduce the stigma and develop capabilities to have productive conversations about mental health in the workplace.
How to assess employee well-being
These are some of the signs that show that employees are in urgent need of wellness strategies and have poor mental well-being:
- Decreased productivity of the team.
- Lack of enthusiasm, urgency, and motivation.
- Unusual repetitive errors or mistakes.
- Lack of interaction and connection between work colleagues.
Sounds familiar? Let’s work together to support each other and build mentally healthy environments for our main business drivers: employees. Finally, happy employees are 3 times more creative, which means increased opportunities and solutions, in other words, higher productivity.
CoCreativs is a business design & innovation company that facilitates creativity workshops that enhance happiness and boost productivity in the workplace.