Why employee wellbeing should still be top priority

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We can just about see the first signs of normality in the UK with restaurants and stores opening up and many businesses breaking the cobwebs of their office doors and welcoming employees back into the physical workplace. Although it’s not entirely ‘normal’, it’s the most normal we’ve seen in a long time, and the changes are positive ones. 

Just a year ago when everything changed abruptly and dramatically HR leaders were most concerned with their people’s wellbeing. As you may know, change impacts the wellbeing of employees (and people in general) significantly, and here everything was changing in ways never experienced before, and all at once! Negative change or change that’s emotionally overwhelming can cause employees to disengage which can cause poor productivity performance, communication and many more damaging repercussions. So of course, wellbeing took front and centre for HR leaders who wanted to support their people emotionally and therefore protect employee engagement. It was the only way to remain strong through the changes and economic downturn.

But now that life is returning to normal and positive changes are happening, do employees still need as much emotional support? Do HR leaders still need to prioritise employee wellbeing?

…the answer is not just yes, it’s absolutely!

Here are four reasons why employee wellbeing should still be a top priority

Employees can suffer PTSD (post pandemic trauma)

With any traumatic, life altering event, one can suffer from PTSD. While life may be returning to normal, HR leaders ought to be aware that there will be some employees who suffer with PTSD. Some people may know they have PTSD, while others may be totally oblivious and act out of character. PTSD can cause employees to feel fatigued, unmotivated, irritable (and therefore find it difficult to work in a team) and have trouble focussing. Employee wellbeing should always be a priority but especially now when change and the aftermath of change is still being experienced.

“Even if you aren’t clinically diagnosed with PTSD, you may have a strong emotional reaction to the trauma of Covid-19 that can last long after an incident.

When we think about traumatic events, it’s not just what the event is, it’s really your interpretation and what the event causes for you,” Luana Marques, clinical psychologist and associate professor in the department of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and president of the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, tells CNBC Make It.”

Employees may need time adjusting to in-person working

The lack of social interaction over a 12 month+ period affects people differently; some people are experiencing social anxiety. The anxiety may be linked to change – a change in the ‘normal’ they’ve come to know for the last year; the fear of not having anything interesting to say, or the threat to health and safety. 

“Researchers are particularly concerned about those with social anxiety. While many are excited to reconnect with their friends, family, and coworkers, those with social anxiety may experience anxiety as they begin to socialize again. One reason for this may be due to a reduction in social exposure. 

When treating social anxiety, one of the main evidence-based treatments is exposure therapy. This is also a common therapy used when treating patients with PTSD and OCD. Since social interactions have been limited these past few months, the thought of returning to social gatherings may cause symptoms of social anxiety to flare up.”

By focussing on employee wellbeing and supporting employees as they move through these different phases and challenges, HR leaders will have greater control of the outcomes, including how their people perform and engage. Pulse surveys are highly beneficial as they give employees a place to go to express themselves. This way, HR leaders will be able to keep a tab on how their people are feeling, and how best to support them through their challenges before they affect their work life and performance.

Employee wellbeing is the key to employee engagement 

Employee wellbeing and engagement work hand in hand. It’s impossible to expect an employee with poor wellbeing to feel engaged. Disengaged employees are often the employees sitting with uncomfortable feelings and emotions they cannot express; who feel negatively towards the decisions being made within the organisation or who feel their needs aren’t being met. This is what poor emotional wellbeing looks like and it can cause a multitude of HR related problems, all of which can be so easily avoided if they’re given a voice.

“85% of companies say wellbeing programs support employee engagement, according to a research study. Wellbeing programs help to foster connection and rapport with and amongst employees, improve the emotional and physical health of employees, increases job satisfaction and consequently employee happiness.  All these factors contribute to higher employee engagement levels, especially when you take an holistic approach to wellbeing and engagement.”

Employee wellbeing positively impacts employee recruitment and retention

Recruitment agents predict a rise in business in the near future with employees longing for a fresh start and greater opportunities. Many businesses struggled during the pandemic and relied heavily on their people to navigate the way out. It was, and still is a stressful time for employees, which may cause them to associate their organisation with stress and/or even trauma linked to the pandemic and therefore look to move elsewhere. If HR leaders want to retain and attract talent, they need to prioritise wellbeing. Talent will move elsewhere without the right emotional support, especially if they indeed associate their work with stress and trauma. 

78% of employers offer wellness programs to attract and retain talent. The fight for the best talent on the market is very competitive, and high-quality candidates have several options to choose from when picking their next employer. Providing employee wellbeing benefits that are in line with your future workforce is very important if you want to attract the best candidates that will ensure your company’s business success.”

Learn How to Keep Your Best People In Our Free Guide to Retention