How To Promote Employee Wellbeing When Returning to Work
As the world is slowly returning to a “new normal” and employees are starting to return to work or adopting a hybrid working model, the importance of wellbeing is a topic that HR directors and employers are looking at more closely than ever before.
Rachel Smith, Co-founder & Head of Product at Lifefyle was recently interviewed on the HRLocker podcast and answers some core questions in regards to returning to work and wellbeing.
According to a study by AAT involving 2,000 Brits, the average adult carries out 109 life admin tasks every year. Another study by Admiral.com showed the average UK adult spends 34 minutes every weekday doing “life-admin” tasks, such as insurance and banking.
What’s even more shocking is that poor mental health costs UK employers up to £45 billion a year in total (Deloitte).
Life admin can build up to be a big factor in the mental stress employees can experience, which overflows into their work lives and impacts their focus, productivity, and wellbeing.
Fortunately, the team at Lifefyle believe they have a solution to this problem.
Co-founder Rachel, started her career in technology, and eventually moved into people-focused roles, which included career & talent management and HR, when she realised that having even the best product and most advanced technology means nothing if employers are not getting the best out of the people in the team.
Seeing first-hand in the consulting and professional services industry that the work-life balance was very one-sided, she wanted to help employees create balance.
This is when Lifefyle was born — the #1 life admin automation platform & marketplace, designed with employee wellbeing in mind.
Some of the many challenges employees face in regards to life admin, is that their home life usually takes a backseat. This, more often than not, leads to the need for periods of counterbalance to create time out for what’s being left unattended.
With staff transitioning into hybrid or fully-office situations, this becomes even more relevant again.
Dean Burnett, a neuroscientist based at Cardiff University, was asked by Admiral.com about how the stress of dealing with life admin can affect our wellbeing, he said:
“Modern life is increasingly hectic. Our complex society means people are having to juggle busy work schedules alongside long, laborious and time-consuming life admin. Having too much on your plate means you have less time to relax, a greatly reduced sense of control over your life, which leads to increased stress which can have a real impact on your mental and physical wellbeing.”
Lifefyle aims to make life admin easier, faster, and automates it in many cases. The ability to access everything you need, anywhere, anytime, opens up the opportunity for employees to utilize “dead time” to check off to-do items, such as when they are commuting to or from work, or taking a break.
This frees up their head space from mental clutter, gives them more control and reduces potential for interruptions during their workday, plus, it frees up their time when they come home, so they can spend more time recharging and doing what they love most.
How do companies that are reopening their offices ensure employee wellbeing comes high on the list of priorities?
After speaking with friends & peers in all situations, ranging from fully remote, fully onsite, hybrid, and key workers, it became clear to Rachel that there is no one-size-fits-all answer. Therefore, the only answer has to be flexibility.
Everyone has responded differently to the pandemic and many of us don’t know how we feel. The world has changed; we’ve changed, and the old models don’t apply anymore.
The key for this transition is going to be found in trial & error, small step-by-step phases, and giving employees plenty of notice and time to process the changes.
It’s important not to mandate, but rather to listen, keep the conversation open, be supportive, and ultimately seek to understand their home life situation.
Employers have the responsibility to offer some form of consistency and normality, while at the same time realising that this is the new normal and there’s no going back to how it was before.
Change of any kind can bring anxiety, so it’s more important than ever to provide support for employees in the form of flexibility and reassurance.
Providing simple tools that demonstrate that their employer cares about them, goes a long way to encourage positive mental wellbeing at work. It doesn’t have to be expensive!
Gradually, people will eventually welcome these changes as they are incorporated into the company culture. It’s important to make a plan to look for ongoing ways to support employees, but always be prepared to change the plan when new circumstances arise.
How can you ensure continued productivity during another transition, re-entering the office?
Acceptance that there will be a period of uncertainty and dip while people readjust is important. On the positive side, anxiety at a low level can really help employees focus — on deadlines, being more efficient, and stop procrastination.
People are already busy in the routines they’ve established during the pandemic. They’ve changed the way they live, added in more hobbies, exercise, childcare, and have an overall better setup than before.
With going back to the office, there is anxiety of how they fit in their commute again, especially in London where commuting can take up an average of 1–2 hours per day in total. They may also be anxious about keeping on top of the new life and reorganising responsibilities at home.
Conversely, others have experienced anxiety about having to stay home, with the social isolation, feeling more distracted, and having to have more meetings instead of quick chats at their desk.
Ultimately, it comes down to catering to different needs and lifestyles, so it’s important to think about how you can support each group.
The answer lies in balance by having a hybrid approach, encouraging staff to travel when it suits them, having walking meetings, setting up groups such as running clubs, cycling, yoga, or book club. Have trust that the work will get done, and support different routines.
As an employer how do I create a culture that embraces employees wellbeing for the long haul?
The truth is, wellbeing is not a one-shot event. It’s a long-term process, so it’s important to give it time. A few ideas to encourage wellbeing are to give staff a cinema ticket to reduce stress, or even have a duvet day once in a while. It’s important to have ongoing benefits that can support employees over a longer term.
One of the best ways to encourage change is through role modelling. Increase your own wellbeing as a leader, through your behaviours. Nobody likes a preacher, but they are much more willing to follow someone who walks the talk.
Also, it’s OK to not feel OK. It’s OK to take some personal time in the day to reset. It’s time to let go of things that no longer serve us well and start embracing tools and habits that will boost wellbeing and increase productivity.
Support those people who are not looking after themselves, and encourage the team to collaborate and share the load, so everyone feels supported.
Do you think that employee wellbeing is the key to productivity?
Absolutely. As mentioned earlier, people operating processes leads to a successful business. If those people aren’t supported, engaged, or feeling well, then the business suffers. Wellbeing is a holistic topic and means different things to different people, and that’s completely OK.
Over the last 18 months, we have all tried the quick fix strategies, how do you build new habits that will promote continued wellbeing in each employee?
Big shifts are rarely sustainable. It requires small tweaks and tuning to let go of bad habits and build new empowering ones, over time. Forming habits is a deep topic, but on a personal level, it comes down to discipline and desire.
Offer support for building new habits — whether that be in the form of a tech solution, mentor, or anything in between.
At a company level, it’s all about demonstrating by having role models, and celebrating successes of taking actions toward wellbeing.
Your Next Steps
It’s time to take action now, before time slips by and you’re faced with employee wellbeing issues further down the line.
We invite you to consider Lifefyle as a solution by booking a free demo today, to see how it can benefit your team’s wellbeing and productivity.