The COVID-19 pandemic has increased the levels of stress, fatigue, and anxiety amongst the workforce.
In 2019, Business Roundtable, representing some of the biggest corporations in the USA, issued a statement on the “purpose of a corporation,” which includes a “commitment to value employees and understand the importance of investing in their health and well-being by providing support during both good and difficult times.”
Cut to 2021. And the business world is facing an unprecedented crisis, with millions of employees struggling with the pandemic and their mental and emotional well-being. With organizations going virtual and most employees working from home, can leaders keep up their commitment and navigate a new emotional landscape at work? Can modern intranets help combat grief, stress, and fatigue and build an “emotionally intelligent” workplace?
Let’s find out.
As employees transitioned to remote working and social interactions dwindled, feelings of isolation cropped in, coupled with uncertainty about roles, the challenges in communication and collaboration, the fear of contracting the virus, and the grief of losing loved ones to the disease. Indeed, it’s been a roller coaster of emotions for every member of the workforce.
Gone are the “9-5” workdays. Amidst the pandemic, many employees found themselves working more hours than usual, with no time for personal commitments or family and kids. Recently, investment banking firm, Goldman Sachs, came under the radar when a group of 13 “disgruntled” analysts made a presentation about 100+ hour work weeks causing a severe deterioration in their physical and mental health. One of them noted, “There was a point where I was not eating, showering, or doing anything else other than working from morning until after midnight.”
Carolina Valencia, Director in the Gartner HR practice, said, “The COVID-19 pandemic has led more employees worldwide to seek assistance with their emotional and mental health. Investing in employee well-being will enable organizations to have a more productive and engaged workforce – and to better retain and attract talent – now and as the pandemic subsides and employees return to the workplace.”
A Gartner research revealed, “Even before the pandemic, 45% of well-being budget increases were being allocated to mental and emotional well-being programs. As employees face work from home (WFH) burnout, here’s how leaders can leverage the organization’s digital workplace to tide through these challenges.
Any well-being initiatives start with establishing open communication and two-way discourse at the workplace. As Lee Gordon, VP of Global Communications and Public Relations at Brunswick Corporation, once said, “It’s easy to communicate “to” your employees – it’s a one-way street without give and take. But how well are you communicating “with” your employees? Do you know how they feel, what they think, or if they are receiving the right communications?”
Indeed, organizations must first survey their employees to decipher how their needs have changed during the pandemic and what can be done to support their emotional well-being.
In fact, leaders may encourage employees to innovate and use an idea management system embedded within the intranet to crowdsource ideas on managing emotional well-being.
Leaders must stimulate conversations around mental health and lead by example. Motivating employees to pitch into discussions, create blogs and videos, share stories on the intranet, and making regular virtual check-ins an internal mandate can help break the stigma around the subject.
Besides, by sharing weekly testimonials on their emotional well-being, managers can encourage others to speak up. Additionally, message boards and policy documents available on the intranet must reinforce the current initiatives and guidance available to help employees sail through tough times.
Emotional well-being is directly related to social, physical, and financial well-being. According to a Gartner survey, “supporting employees’ overall emotional and mental health requires HR leaders to provide holistic benefits packages, with base pay competitiveness, time-off, and promotion and recognition being the three most important categories.”
Limited access to gyms and other healthcare services has taken a toll on the physical health of employees. Virtual yoga and dance sessions can help alleviate physical and mental stress.
Using video conferencing tools, leaders can conduct team lunch discussions and group mindfulness activities to meet the social needs of employees.
Food and Beverages giant Starbucks provides all its employees in the U.S. and each of their family members 20 therapy sessions a year with registered therapists and mental health coaches.
Many organizations plan to implement four-day workweeks to give employees the needed time-off while enhancing efficiency, productivity, and workforce engagement in the process.
Lee Gordon also said, “One of the many things I miss about being in the office is accidentally running into people at the coffee machine. Those chance encounters provide tremendous insight into what my colleagues were working on or what their kids did over the weekend.”
Indeed, a quick chat in the hallway or a short coffee break fulfilled the social needs of employees, allowing them to discuss the latest news, exchange ideas, and break silos.
A virtual water cooler, an online version of the water cooler in your organization, provides an informal, collaborative digital environment for employees to discuss what’s trending, stay updated on relevant content, and get access to subject-matter experts who can help them with current projects.
In a remote working scenario, an inability to locate the required files and documents at the right time hampers productivity and adds to the employee’s stress.
The solution? Located within the company’s intranet is a document management system that holds all the files, documents, and information under a single roof.
With organized meta-tagging, intelligent taxonomy, and AI-enabled personalization, the intranet’s cognitive search functionality helps find policy documents, files, training resources, and other data located within the organization’s network. Furthermore, a chatbot embedded on the platform helps draw up the required information when needed.
At Acuvate, we help clients alleviate grief, stress, and fatigue and navigate a new emotional landscape at work with Mesh 3.0, our Employee Experience Platform solution for enterprises.
Mesh is built with the best of Microsoft technologies, including Azure Search Services, Office Graph, LUIS, and MS Natural Language Stack, and helps break silos and keep employees connected and engaged with capabilities, such as –
To know more about Mesh 3.0, please feel free to schedule a personalized consultation with our experts.
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