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Make it personal – employee well-being in a post-pandemic workplace
One of the greatest challenges in the post-pandemic working world is how HR manages the new characteristics of employee well–being. Are our current ways of working, processes, and policies fit for the new era?
Our workplaces evolve continuously, but the pandemic increased the momentum of change as employees all over the world experienced new ways of working. Some embraced the transition to working from home or hybrid working wholeheartedly, some lamented the loss of real-life face-to-face contact, and others found the transformation of the family home from private sanctuary into office and schoolroom intolerable.
For businesses, these contrasting reactions demonstrated a marked shift in how employee wellbeing should now be managed and highlighted the potential need for a more individualized, rather than homogenous, approach.
Life balance is key
Carita Poussa, Managing Director of NTT DATA Business Solutions Finland, believes the transition brings with it many questions and one of the main challenges lies in how we take the personal needs of employees into account and still reassure that people are being treated equally.
We no longer talk about work-life balance, but life balance. When people work remotely, their needs change from what they are in an office environment.
Usually, we know if they have children, spouses, and pets. What we don’t necessarily know is if they have an extra room to use as an office or if they perhaps have to share the kitchen table with other family members. And let’s say we provide a desk to those without one through the benefits’ budget, what about the others? The question is, how do we best support this non-homogeneous group equally?
Carita points out that those in HR have traditionally followed mandatory processes applied in the same way to everyone. Switching to more individualized support increases complexity for employers and also poses the crucial question of how we best achieve it.
One way is through benefits, where some are universal, and others selected. This might mean child support for one employee and extra days off for another. But this approach would also depend on a country’s legislation, taxation requirements, and other issues – and this makes writing HR policy around it, challenging.
Really, we shouldn’t look at them as benefits at all. Benefits are things that add value to an employee’s life and make them happy – rewards if you like. Support, on the other hand, is what you need to be efficient, happy, and engaged in your work.
Other new issues to arise as more companies adopt a home-office hybrid approach include ensuring employees remain engaged and feel part of the team. Some find the experience barely different to working in the office, while others miss the human contact. Carita says this is something HR needs to consider.
Again, it means looking at the individual’s needs. We’re all different. One might do just as well at home as at the office, another might not. However, we have to ask if it’s possible to make individual rules for hybrid working or does it require a standard, or maybe a team approach?
Without as much real-life interaction, hybrid working demands managers learn how to balance the professional needs of individual staff, while minimizing the risk of employees feeling neglected or hurt.
There needs to be a culture of trust. This takes time to develop and be understood, even in a traditional work environment. Managers need to act in the best interests of the person, and, over time, development of a culture of trust can help the individual to understand and appreciate the reason for the differences from colleague to colleague, says Carita.
The nuanced process of developing trust has changed during the adoption of hybrid working and not only concerning internal relationships. Building a solid level of trust with customers online differs greatly from real-life meetings.
In these times, digitalization has become a necessity. It is practically impossible to operate in a hybrid world without digital HR processes. However, nothing can replace collaboration in person. Managers today are faced with the challenge of what should be done in person and what can be done virtually. Listen, feel, trust your gut, and try to make the best possible decision in each situation.
Make it personal, is Carita’s advice.