By Everett Tran
What a year. COVID-19 saw most people struggle with their health, relationships, finances, career, social life and mental wellbeing – often as a mixed cluster. As we impatiently countdown the days to breakthrough to a new year, these existing sources of worry are not going to simply wash off any time soon.
For employers, it means the ramp up of support for employees throughout the pandemic will still be an ongoing need in 2021. If you’re wondering what initiatives are trending across workplace wellbeing, here are 6 popular ideas to consider for your organisation.
- Keeping social offerings alive
In a country that prides itself on social culture and events, 2020 has been particularly difficult for Australians. Even today as the pandemic seems to be under control, usual social activities like after work drinks, trivia nights at the pub, a kick at the park, and Saturday morning HIIT or PUMP classes have not been the same.
As we gradually return to the workplace, consider providing your employees a platform to meet and interact – virtually and/or in person to share common interests and hobbies. Think trivia clubs, gaming clubs (get onto ‘Among Us’ with your team), reading clubs, dog walking clubs, Sports fantasy leagues, even a dodgeball team! The possibilities are endless.
- Prioritise wellness offerings
Gym memberships, fruit boxes and yoga have been popular wellbeing offering for years. With a stronger appetite for additional activities to help employees prioritise their health, consider exploring new programs and initiatives. A client of ours started a monthly virtual briefing event, where a guest speaker is invited to share their insight on a wellbeing topic. It’s also important to ensure your senior team actively participate and show leadership on such initiatives.
- Support learning and growth
A heightened feeling of career uncertainty and the availability of time from a quieter social life means people looking to fill time productively and learn new skills. By supporting employees with their professional development needs, you will have workforce with stronger capabilities and keep motivated at work. It’s a win-win for all.
Remember, learning does not necessarily mean tertiary or expensive courses. Easy ways to support employees might include providing access to LinkedIn learning, in-house workshops and modules for specialised skills. It could also mean curated a list of recommended TED Talks, books, articles and podcasts. Is there a list your organisation and/or leadership team can curate together?
- Powering up financial literacy and resilience
Across the Australian economy, the enormous loss of jobs, long pauses in work (stand downs) and reduction in work hours impacted people financially and challenged the notion job security entirely. The thought of losing our income or to have it reduced significantly can cause dreadful anxiety if employees are not confident or diligent in managing their finances.
Supporting employees to strengthen their financial literacy and encourage financial planning action will help be more prepared to deal with financially challenging scenarios with greater confidence.
- Communicate genuinely and clearly
Another way to help ease the minds of a workforce worrying about job uncertainty is to rethink how and what is broadly communicated to all employees. Everyone wants to work in a highly transparent organisation where employees are trusted to receive and exchange information.
How does the organisation plan on surviving the pandemic, and beyond that what does the road to recovery and return to ‘normal work’ look like? Employees will benefit from knowing more about the current of state of play and the strategies that impact them moving forward.
- Equip people to always work safely
Most organisations have invested in office layouts, fittings and furniture to support safer workspaces and healthier work environments. As the option to work from home (in part or full) evolves into a permanent offering, there will be a need to ensure remote work locations and set-ups are also safe for employees.
A practical way to start is by conducting an ergonomic assessment for the work area in employees’ homes to identify and manage address hazards. An agreement to meet with your employees near or at their home every so often for work instead of at the office or virtually (we are all Zoom/Teams fatigued!), will provide you valuable insight into the effectiveness of their workspace and its impact on their health and wellbeing.
An investment into employee wellbeing is often misunderstood and treated as ‘nice to have’, when in fact it directly relates to employers’ legal obligation to provide a safe working environment. With that, employer support for wellbeing presents in many different forms, and what’s right for your organisation comes down to understanding the risks and balancing needs of your organisation and people.