We need to start prioritizing workforce health and wellbeing

The impact of Covid-19 on people’s physical and mental health has been undeniably profound and far-reaching, and a big part of that is its effect on wellbeing at work.

When we surveyed over 100 senior IT professionals, we heard concerns about the impact on both employees and management. For example, 76% said they were concerned for their employees’ work-life balance when working from home, while flipping it around, 73% admitted that they struggled to maintain their workforce’s momentum and morale.

In-depth interviews conducted in parallel with the survey painted a similar picture, with many feeling an added responsibility to “check in” with their employees, and voicing genuine fears for the working conditions they faced at home.

Workforce wellbeing is back on the agenda

Coupled with the fact that 80% reported an increased emphasis on employee wellbeing and work-life balance, it is clear that the topic of health and wellbeing is increasingly at the forefront of many organizations’ agendas – but is this a mindset shift that’s here to stay?

While we won’t be able to adequately answer this question for many months yet, things certainly look promising. We have seen a sea change in attitudes from management, with many leaving behind their old autocratic style of leadership in favour of a more flexible, transparent, and ultimately, person-centred approach.

Several conceptualized the pandemic as a catalyst for major change. More explicitly, they described it as a desperately-needed “shot in the arm” for people who had long overlooked their health or happiness while living life perpetually on the go. And indeed, home working has, for many people, provided the time and space for such poignant reflection.

Transforming the workplace culture

Taking responsibility for – and claiming ownership of – workforce wellbeing is a daunting prospect for any manager. Yet transforming workplace culture from one of collectivism to individualism, one that sees people more clearly as people, is undoubtedly a worthwhile goal.

There’s nothing quite like a global health pandemic to refocus attention to individual wellbeing. Whilst it’s impossible to generalize, there is an evident benefit in adopting an attentive and flexible approach to enhance employee choice, and therefore, autonomy.

Ultimately, putting people first has the potential to institutionalize health and wellbeing, yet the obvious question is whether this mindset shift can withstand the test of time. What’s clear is that a newfound focus on health and wellbeing represents a rare silver-lining during what is otherwise a sobering period of time.

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