Embracing the 'new normal' - rethinking employee mental health and well-being.
10. februar 2022 kl. 07:25 · 6 minutter å lese
Embracing the 'new normal'
The advent of COVID- 19 jolted the world out of slumber. Our fundamental need of being a ‘social animal’ was severely challenged, as we restrict ourselves to confined spaces (read: room). If anyone asked me during the pandemic what’s the plan for tonight, I would say that I’ll hit the living room around 9 or 10. As the world steered through the pandemic, in-office interaction was conveniently replaced with work-from-home. Despite its widespread popularity, implications for such measures continue to pose challenges to organizations. Questions like how organizations should respond to the new normal or how they can guarantee employee wellbeing are yet to be addressed fully.
According to Office for National Statistics, around 57% of people in UK feel their personal well-being is affected by pandemic. In 2020 Oracle and Workplace Intelligence, reported that 76% of employees feel that employers should be doing more to support the mental health of their workforce. As the line between work and home gets blurred, organizations face a conundrum: How to strike a balance between their business and their workforce needs?
The pandemic paved way for a mass adoption of collaboration tools and remote working. Being fast and convenient, it empowered individuals to manage their productivity and avoid potential interruptions. The transformation benefitted the employers equally. Not only were they able to inculcate a structure in their day-to-day tasks, but they also managed to increase overall output. According to Forbes, teleworkers were 35-40% more productive than their office counterparts and demonstrated an increase in output by at least 4.4%. As alluring as it may seem, such benefits came at a cost. Around 7 out of 10 people said that year 2020 has been the most stressful year of their working lives as they battle to meet performance standards, routine, and tedious tasks. Employees who would previously leave their work stress at the office, now find it difficult to compartmentalize between personal and professional sphere.
Throughout the pandemic technology has made it easier for companies – to a certain extent – seamlessly run their operations. Digital platforms were extensively used to build professional relationships as they greatly influence the creative performance and knowledge sharing abilities of employees. Widespread usage of technological tools resulted in efficient scheduling and focused meeting. However, in the absence of face-to-face interaction for purposes of knowledge sharing, exposure to digital devices ballooned. Increased usage of digital devices for virtual dates, tourism, and family conferences, further aggravated the situation. Such unprecedented use of technology gave rise to increased levels of anxiety, mood swings, uncertainty and negative emotions like irritability and aggression.
Interaction on digital space opened a whole new world for collaboration. Whiteboarding sessions, Gantt charts and G Suite’s platforms ensured accessibility and transparency. Managers were able to monitor their team’s progress in real time and share instant feedback. Collaborative platforms facilitated inclusion as companies can recruit more diverse staff across geographical boundaries. On the other end of the spectrum, extroverted personalities experienced a decline in productivity in their digital interaction. As these people were used to gaining energy from those around them, they felt disconnected and isolated. Additionally, misunderstanding and miscommunication skyrocketed in virtual space. Conflicts that were previously resolved during conversation over coffee, were now prone to unnecessary escalation. Overall, it created an atmosphere where employees were consumed by overthinking and trust deficit.
So, what role should organizations play in harmonizing employee mental health? What types of support are employees asking for? According to Oracle Workplace Intelligence, 85% of people highlighted that workplace anxiety is negatively affecting their personal and professional life. At Lifekeys, we facilitate companies that harness grassroots energy by encouraging employees to identify and express their opinions on workplace culture. As a CEO and a clinical psychologist, I know that an open culture motivates employees to own their work and exceed expectations. Designed for the digital space, our solution allows employees to respond to mental wellness tests, anonymously. Let's be honest. Companies are not hesitant when it comes to asking employees about taking COVID test because they know the consequences associated with it. However when it comes to employee mental health, they are often too late to respond. To solve this, our real-time dashboard allows companies to get a reality check and in-depth visibility of their employees mental health. Companies can take a more proactive approach and identify mental health risks timely and efficiently. Similarly, our courses and digital consultation allow employees to navigate workplace stressors and respond practically.
As the global pandemic caused the world to come to a grinding halt, it simultaneously compelled us to discover alternative ways for collaboration. As businesses transcend from the physical to digital world, new and complex challenges have cropped up. These challenges have directly and indirectly impacted the mental health of the workforce. If companies want to stay relevant they need to practice mindfulness and empathy. Else, the very people who once propelled it to success, will eventually become the reason behind its fall.