What does it mean to really be there for your employees?
Have you heard of a Chief Well-Being Officer? This new approach is what many companies are implementing to solve the problem of burnout in their employees. Many are feeling burnout due to COVID-19 pandemic. People are suffering from Zoom fatigue; teachers and students are trying to adopt a new model of teaching and learning, and working mothers are trying to balance home life with work life. The sum or combination of all these situations has produced a catalyst for changes to society and companies.
Some leaders strongly believe that the Coronavirus pandemic brought a lot more flexibility to balance work with family life. Even though this may be true for some, for others it has been a real challenge to take care of their kids and home while at the same time fulfilling the same productive goals of the job. For some people, the ability to work from home has resulted in no boundaries and a 12 - hour workday. The impact the pandemic or any other situation may have on your work and family life has a lot to do depending on the conditions of your home, the nature of the job, and the capability of the company leaders to effectively handle and lead teams into positive remote work experience.
A well-being strategy is not an exact formula for everyone. For some, well-being could mean exercising every day, Netflix and chill, or taking a vacation somewhere on the beach. Employees, along with their leaders and the Chief Well-Being Officer, must evaluate and reflect on the organization’s habits, routine and evaluate improvements on the company’s possible high - pressure environment, to work on effective strategies for each member of their team to avoid burnout.
The company and its leaders must understand that burnout is not the price of success; it should not be the driver to finally offer that employee his or her deserved promotion or raise. It should be quite the opposite; it should be a leader's job to constantly offer opportunities to grow professionally, notice when their employees are on the brink of collapse, and teach them how to recover and thrive, as well as integrate their purpose with that of the company’s.
This new position of Chief Well-Being Officer should be considered the norm. It should already be a standard position inside an organization, as the Chief Financial Officer (CFO). Leaders should find support in this new area. By taking care of their people, practicing compassion and humility, and empowering teams to focus on their well-being, an organization can solve some complex problems, earn revenue, and be more productive. The well-being of your employee means the well-being of your organization.
But taking care of your employees’ well–being is not just about throwing money into apps, tools, or programs, without a clear strategy or purpose. The well–being strategy should be embedded and be an important part of the corporate culture. A cultural transformation is needed to engage leaders, from the top down, to understand that the needs of the employees are as important as revenue and that a one size strategy does not fit all. The Chief Well-being Officer needs to work on the overall business plan strategy like, for example, the CFO does, contributing towards a common goal. This new role is all about helping leaders build awareness, and turn the support the company can give to employees into concrete and effective actions. The position should be more than a human resource leader; it should aim to transform a human resources department into a resource for humans.
Well–being is not just physical, it also includes mental and emotional health, as well as financial well–being. To correctly enforce this strategy; transparency and honesty should be an important part of corporate values. Employees need to trust their leaders; trust they will not use the information against them.
Particular programs or benefits only do so much, the real change occurs when actions are part of the corporate culture. An important part of effective well-being support from leaders is that they need to understand and respect boundaries, respect holidays and weekends. For example, sometimes leaders confuse checking in with only talking about work-related activities. Checking how your employees are feeling means listening to them on their recommendations for better job performance, ideas, etc. The leader must try to reach the common ground or provide what the employee needs to continue doing the work as best they could.
Sometimes it’s better not to check-in, meaning if you are going to call on a Friday afternoon or the weekends, for example, or if you are just going to ask about how work is doing every time, it’s better to avoid the call altogether. A simple time out or space to breathe is also good for the employee and the company’s productivity.
According to a survey from TELUS International and published in Forbes Magazine, about 80% of workers would consider quitting their current position for one that focuses or invest more in employee's mental health. The survey also finds that 75% of US workers have struggled at their job due to anxiety caused by the coronavirus pandemic and other events. Taking care of your employees and investing in their well–being will help organizations retain talent. More than hiring short–term mindsets, today the focus should be on building employees' skills. Companies should be the first to adapt to the new normal and future.
Make mental health a priority and promote the importance of rest. Engage your people, involve them in the process and initiatives, receive and implement their feedback. Thanks to COVID – 19 pandemic organizations have learned about the importance of resiliency and investing in mental health and the need for rest and recovery, but it has to translate to leaders to effectively change the culture inside an organization.
Isabella Miralles is a social communicator from Universidad Catolica Andres Bello (Caracas, Venezuela), as well as an advisor of strategic and corporate communications. You can find her on Twitter at @isaMiralles and on Medium at isaMiralles.