Prioritizing Employees in the New Normal 

Just as coronavirus restrictions seemed to be easing up in early 2021, the American workforce faced severe disruption from what has now become known as ‘The Great Resignation.’ Millions of workers across the country quit their jobs and are not looking back. For most of these workers, it is time to say goodbye to their employers and to the conventional work model that has drained them for years. 

According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, resignation numbers in November 2021 hit a record high of 4.5 million people, a considerable increase from the pre-pandemic level of 3.5 million people in April 2020. The reasons are the same across the board: employees are demotivated, dissatisfied, and disgruntled by how the conventional work model has made them pawns in the corporate space, growing businesses and improving the profitability of their organizations at the expense of their well-being and health. 

People leveraged the hiatus created by the coronavirus lockdowns to reflect on how work affects their health and well-being and whether work allows them to be the best versions of themselves. For many of them, the answers to these questions pushed them to make the hard decisions of either changing employers or quitting the workforce entirely. 

The focus has to turn back to employees. Employers have to shift and pivot their organizations towards their employees. This shift requires a transformation in their organizational culture as it relates to employee well-being, health, and personal success. In simple terms, this new normal demands greater prioritization of employees. 

Organizations that are employee-centric and are driven to promote the growth and well-being of their employees will thrive in the new normal. This new paradigm indicates that employers now have to be intentional about leaving their workers better than when they were recruited. Better not only in terms of their skills but also in terms of their health indicators. 

Employers need to rethink employee wellness and begin to walk the talk. Workplace wellness initiatives have to be practical and not just look good on paper. Furthermore, corporate wellness needs a more holistic approach to efficiently improve employee health metrics while slashing unnecessary employer health spending. 

One can take simple steps such as offering flexible work schedules to cut down on workplace stress. This includes offering remote or hybrid work models for employees who perform efficiently in these work conditions and more time off to optimize productivity and engagement.  

Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) is one of the organizations revving up its commitment to employee wellness and growth. Samanntha DuBridge, Vice President, Benefits, Culture, Engagement, M&A, and Mobility for Hewlett Packard Enterprise, said the company pivoted its mental health offerings during the pandemic to optimize employee well-being and engagement. 

DuBridge, who will also be a speaker at this year’s Healthcare Revolution conference, noted that the company launched a mental health program that involves sharing a series of wellness podcasts titled “Straight Talk For Real Life.” This podcast aims to address mental health issues and provide employees and their families with relevant tips and tools to support those with mental health concerns or dealing with workplace stress. 

In addition to these measures, organizations can also adopt more efficient wellness offerings aimed at improving physical health. For instance, redesign office structures and operations to get employees walking more and engage in more walking meetings. Employers can also encourage workers to take exercise breaks and shift employees from the traditional open office settings to drive more physical interactions. 

“We have a global wellness challenge, like a walking or activity challenge, aimed at helping employees increase their physical activity. There are a lot of mental health and physical health benefits of getting people up and walking, and that’s why we have shifted more focus to this area to approach health holistically,” DuBridge noted about HPE. 

Financial wellness is an often neglected aspect of wellness in many organizations. Wellness programs are not complete without addressing employees’ financial concerns. Financial stress surged during the pandemic as restrictions crippled business activities and caused job losses. In the post-pandemic era, employees want as much information about their financial health as they do about their physical and mental health. This involves not only offering resources and tools to help employees manage their finances better but also availing workers of financial compensations and benefits they are eligible for. 

Another way to demonstrate your commitment to your employees’ growth is to provide your employees with resources and upskilling opportunities through online courses, webinars, and other platforms to help them get ahead with their work tasks and goals. One of the major triggers of the great resignation is burnout, much of which results from mismatching job tasks with employees who have not been adequately trained to take up those tasks. 

Equip your workers with the right tools, training, and resources to navigate their daily work responsibilities. Offer constructive feedback where necessary, as overwhelming workers with negative feedback may further dent their morale and productivity and increase workplace stress. Open communication channels, particularly for remote workers, to ensure an efficient feedback loop system. 

Overall, these measures drive engagement and boost morale among employees. A healthier, better-engaged workforce is a healthy and productive organization. Employers and business leaders must adapt to the changes of the new normal and build organizations that are employee-centric and aim to make their workforce healthier, more equipped, and better engaged. 

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