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Improving Employee Experience in Good, Bad Times


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As I strolled into work on Nov. 4, I couldn’t help feel the lingering effects of having spent a long night watching election results from around the country. Outside of the general lack of sleep, I’m sure I felt much like many others — uneasy, anxious, and nervous— for what comes next. My point in bringing this up isn’t to weigh in on politics, but to highlight how outside forces can (and are) impacting workplace productivity and the overall employee experience. Besides divisive politics, the fall season brings higher levels of depression and mental health concerns associated with the colder weather in many areas and the holidays. Throw in a worsening pandemic, and many employees are throwing up the white flag.
We know that burnout is high, and the mental health of workers have taken a hit during 2020. An often-cited report on the matter from FlexJobs and Mental Health America showed that 75% of workers felt burnout at work, with 40% saying that they felt it during the pandemic. Separately, the World Health Organization Report puts the healthcare cost of work burnout at $125 to $190 billion a year. This begs the question: What can be done?
Many companies have already started making progress in addressing mental health in the workplace in meaningful ways. An article in LinkedIn’s Talent Blog highlighted several ways that companies addressed the concern during the pandemic. For instance, Starbucks began to offer its employees access to 20 free sessions with a mental health therapist or coach, and Goldman Sachs gave all employees an extra 10 days of family leave, the blog went on to report.
The article also discussed the emergence of wellness apps (see my related post). I was intrigued by the blog’s mention of an EY app that provides daily workout routines, in addition to wellness, nutrition, and sleep seminars. As a religious runner, I can attest to how a good run (or workout) can reset the day and your mindset.
Access to mental health services, more time off, and wellness technology all sound great, but I wonder if what most of us really need is each other. We could certainly draw that conclusion from a recent Korn Ferry survey that found the number one thing most workers (57% of surveyed) were looking forward to with the return to work is the camaraderie they have with colleagues when everybody’s in the office together.
So, until we can get everybody back together, we need to find a way to introduce more personable interactions into our workdays to help keep burnout at bay. A workplace culture platform might help, as discussed previously on WorkSpace Connect, but something so formal isn’t really all that necessary. I say have fun, find what works for your team, and don’t be afraid to try things that might seem a bit awkward (may I suggest a 10-minute call with colleagues to talk about the weekend, hard stops optional?). I think many people will just enjoy the change — and time together.