The modern workplace has evolved exponentially over the last three years as the Covid pandemic expedited the blurring of the lines between our working and personal lives. “Leave your problems at home” may have been a historical mantra for the business environment but the new generation of leaders recognise the real(and costly) impact of personal life events on employee productivity, performance and preservation and strive to address this.
Simultaneously has come a new desire on the part of the employee to bring their “whole selves”to work and a confidence to ask their employer for help when struggling. As we enter 2023, the employee experience is increasingly guiding wellbeing strategy and providing forward thinking organisations with the opportunity to thrive in a post-pandemic world.
Employees have become accustomed to sharing their personal family lives, triumphs and challenges on video calls. People have grappled with interrupting pets or children, and they have seen into the reality of another person’s existence (perhaps working from a bedside or not being available at certain times because of the need to visit an elderly parent to administer medication during the height of lockdown). Companies are becoming increasingly aware that people’s private family lives are what drive them, both at home and at work, and the breakdown of the work - life barrier during the pandemic has led to enhanced support for diverse family units, parents and carers, which looks likely to continue into 2023 and beyond.
Combined with this is an acceptance by leadership that employees have lives outside of work that often command their attention. Invariably, this historically meant that many personal tasks were actually carried out in the workplace and on “office time”. Whether it be a poorly child, a debilitating medical condition, caring responsibilities, dealing with a bereavement or struggling with fertility issues, it is now recognized that it is practically impossible to compartmentalise life’s conflicting demands. Recognising this and introducing ways to manage it – through flexible working, additional family leave budgets, expert concierge support, or emergency family care – has become the new normal for forward thinking organisations. Despite this, there remain individuals (such as those who are recently bereaved, who are going through a separation or who have a serious illness themselves or within their family) for whom the current benefits offerings do not work. These are often the employees who need help the most and bespoke life stage solutions to help people whatever life event they are experiencing need to become more prevalent.
The cost-of-living crisis and looming recession has understandably resulted in renewed focus on employee financial wellbeing support in 2022. However, savvy companies are taking a more holistic approach and also addressing what non-financial support can be provided to employees to lessen their physical and mental load. Work - life balance has long been lauded as one of the key components of positive mental health and wellbeing and employers are increasingly looking at ways they can credit their employees with their most valued resource, time. This renewed focus on supporting individuals with the issues causing them stress outside of the work arena is a hot topic of discussion. With the continued cost of living squeeze, contraction in the labour market and limited funding to invest into salary enhancements, many organisations will instead be looking to refining their benefits packages. Non salary financial support and tailored family support are the buzz words for the New Year and HR decision makers will need to focus on prioritizing employee benefits in these key areas to attract and retain top talent.
And, finally, as we enter the New Year and strike action intensifies rather than lessens, a voice of discontent and potential mistrust in political leaders is increasingly likely to result in employees turning to trusted employers first for help and support in their personal lives. Trust is the cornerstone to all relationships and a business relationship is no different. Trust is always something that works both ways; an employee needs to trust in their employer and an employer needs to trust in their employee. From an employer perspective, listening to employees and acting on any grievances, issues or suggestions made is the best way to build and reinforce that trust. For savvy employers, recognising and asking what employees need in the moments that matter most to them, rather than deciding for them, is likely to pay dividends.
All in all, 2023 needs to bring a continued focus on how we can further enhance the benefits our employees have access to, so that employers can support the diverse and individualised needs of every employee, and meaningfully support them in moments that matter most to them. Why? Not just because it’s the right thing to do, but because they realise the protective role that they now play, and the clear return on investment that comes with supporting your most valued asset, your people, when they need it most.
“Leave your problems at home” may have been a historical mantra for the business environment but the new generation of leaders recognise the real(and costly) impact of personal life events on employee productivity, performance and preservation and strive to address this.