What to prioritise in the post-Covid workplace to ensure a healthier and happier workforce.
By Liz Hey, Principal Psychologist, Hogrefe Ltd
In their 2021 large-scale survey, “State of the Global Workplace”a, Gallup reports that on average only 30% of employees feel engaged and 70% are not, or are actively disengaged, in their jobs. This is a troubling finding and something which echoes much of the evidence that has been collated throughout the Covid-19 pandemic. It is known that engaged employees are more effective, more productive, and less likely to be absent from work. A recent article also from Gallup entitled “The Great Discontent”b suggested that lost productivity of unengaged and actively disengaged employees is equal to 18% of their annual salary.
If there was ever an argument for exploring the reasons for record low attrition levels, surely this is it. And it is more important than ever to support employees in returning to ‘normal’ working practices. Individuals may have adapted to the ‘new normal’, but have organisations? A recent report from CIPD highlights that 40% of organisations are experiencing higher levels of absenteeism and presenteeism but have, yet, taken no action to address these issues.
Research shows that the healthier employees are in terms of wellbeing, the higher the levels of engagement, and the higher the engagement, the healthier the workforce. So, what can organisations do to help employees feel more engaged and, in turn, help them with their wellbeing?
Wellness is described as “the active pursuit of activities, choices and lifestyles that lead to a state of holistic health” (The Global Wellness Institute, 2021). It is the act of practising healthy habits every day to attain better physical and mental health outcomes, so that instead of just surviving, you're thriving. ‘Wellness’ and ‘wellbeing’ are often used interchangeably in a business context, for organising policies and interventions.
Post-Covid wellness at work priorities should include two key ingredients – psychological safety and adaptability. Where there is psychological safety, there is trust and openness. If employees feel they can trust their employer, they can work with them to create a positive and risk-free environment. This should include being able to voice concerns and make suggestions for better working practices, without compromising their jobs or relationships.
The more adaptable or agile an organisation is, the better it will likely adjust to new ways of working. Currently, it is estimated that at least 30% of organisations in the UK have adopted a hybrid working model, with most employers and employees wanting this in the future. With further uncertainty ahead, this means that most teams will continue to work remotely - at least some of the time - from their line managers and each other. It is challenging to determine employees’ wellness from a distance and, therefore, a greater effort should be made to find ways in which this can be done. For businesses which have saved money on working spaces, or on-site benefits, this could be spent on employee wellness interventions.
The importance and relevance of emotional intelligence is in understanding how our brains process emotions and how this relates to everyday business decisions (Goleman, 2011). Emotional intelligence training should start with an assessment of how individuals process their emotions. Effective emotional processing is important to our health, quality of life, and sense of wellbeing and a healthy emotional processing style protects us from the effects of stress, making us more resilient. This can be beneficial in occupational settings when trying to enhance resilience and wellbeing, improve working relationships, deal with change, and develop decision-making processes. The Emotional Processing Scale – Wellbeing (EPS-W) test is a measure of an individual’s emotional resilience and ability to deal with stressful situations. The EPS-W is therefore a useful predictor of those at risk. The test is easy to administer and, when used in a development or coaching context or as part of a wellbeing intervention, can provide useful insights into how individuals and teams manage change, transitions, and challenges in roles.
There is a relationship between emotional intelligence and skills, and work-related stress risk. Physical and psychological health, job satisfaction, job commitment, and burnout can all be affected by psychosocial risk and poor emotional processing. Organisations can do much to help employees manage their wellbeing and, by showing a commitment to resources and support, send a clear message that this is important and that they are valued. There is not only a clear business case for doing so, but a global imperative to ensure that workforces are in the best shape to deal with any future challenges.
CIPD (2021) Health and wellbeing at work. https://www.cipd.co.uk/knowledge/culture/well-being/health-well-being-work
Gallupa (2021) State of the Global Workplace: 2021 Report Global Insights. Gallup, Inc.
Gallupb Workplace (July 2021) The 'Great Resignation' Is Really the 'Great Discontent'. (by Ghandi, V. & Robison, J.) https://www.gallup.com/workplace/351545/great-resignation-really-great-discontent.aspx
Goleman, D. (2011). The brain and emotional intelligence: New insights. Regional Business, 94.
The Global Wellness Institute: https://globalwellnessinstitute.org/what-is-wellness/