Recent events have created a perfect storm of external and internal stressors and competing responsibilities. Add to that the extraordinary circumstances that took most, if not all, of us out of our comfort zones about how, when, and where we work. As we mark World Health Day this year, it’s important to take stock of what we can do to ensure our own resilience and the resiliency of our people.
While most companies might say they already look out for employee wellbeing, there’s a disconnect in how successful their employees actually think they are. The IBM Institute for Business Value found in its Closing the Chasm report that while 80 percent of executives surveyed said their companies supported the physical and emotional health of employees last year, only 46 percent of employees agreed with that assessment.
Establishing psychological safety
Many of us continue to work at home, and in doing so, we’ve been better able to control our spaces and interactions, but the leftover anxiety from in-office and in-the-world dynamics can still linger, and in some cases, has carried over to being remote. It can be hard to retrain the brain on those things. That might be compounded now that a return to the office seems closer than it was just a few months ago.
How do you feel about that? If you’re worried, you’re not alone. And a source of that worry may be a fear of being able, once the setting of where you work changes, to show your true self without negative consequences—to your self-image, status, or career. And if your whole team feels that way, too, it can inhibit innovation by affecting your ability to take risks.
Psychological safety can extend beyond ourselves to concern for our colleagues and neighbors. What can you do about it? For starters, learn more about how to build inclusive workspaces and be a more inclusive colleague so that you’re not part of the problem. We have some of our learnings on that topic here.
Unfortunately, racially-motivated crimes aren’t subsiding. BMC stands firm against all discriminatory behavior, and as our CEO, Ayman Sayed, said recently, “Race or gender-based violence is never excusable. We all need to be aware and address prejudice as a global community. Please do your part to recognize and correct the subtle and overt behaviors that degrade our fellow humans. We can make a difference when we work together.” There are many resources available to learn more about becoming an ally and safely taking a stand against discrimination.
Build resiliency into your culture
We talk a lot about resiliency in business, but if our people aren’t resilient, too, then the company’s ability to survive and thrive is sort of irrelevant. So, what do we mean by resiliency? It’s the ability to navigate and surmount stressful situations and return to a calm emotional state. Resiliency is an adjunct to the psychological safety section above.
The biggest sign that resilience is missing is burnout. A recent Spring Health study called, aptly enough, Burnout Nation, found that 76 percent of U.S. workers experienced some form of burnout last year. That’s a whole lot of unhappy—and not resilient—employees. What can employers do to help? According to the study, improving benefits is a great first step. Twenty-four percent of employees said they want better mental health policies, 23 percent said access to free therapy, and 20 percent said better mental benefits. And 21 percent said even a mental health and wellness app would be beneficial.
We all know how to work—Microsoft confirmed that in its recent Work Trend Index update, which, alarmingly, echoed the disconnect above when one in five said their employer doesn’t care about their work-life balance. More importantly, 54 percent of respondents said they’re overworked, and 39 percent are just flat-out exhausted.
Well, no wonder. Between February 2020 and February 2021, the time people spent on Teams meetings more than doubled, the average meeting time increased from 35 to 45 minutes, and emails in that same window jumped by 40.6 billion, with 66 percent more people working on documents.
We can obviously use some tips on how to step away from the keyboard, destress, and decompress. The good news is there are a ton of resources available. The Center for Workplace Health recommends a variety of employer interventions to foster resilience, starting from the top down. There are apps for that; the American Heart Association has established seven pillars of workplace health; the Centers for Disease Control has a Workplace Health Resource Center; and the World Health Organization put together Doing What Matters in Times of Stress, a family-friendly, illustrated, multi-lingual printed and audio guide on healthy ways to combat stress.
Asking for help
Sometimes the hardest thing to do is ask for help, but If you’re in a situation where self-directed tools aren’t enough, check in with your employee benefits provider to see what resources are available. And if you’re an employer, evaluate what you’re offering to your people. Note the disconnects above between employer and employee perception. Make sure you’re doing as much for your people as you think you are, and build an empathetic culture that extends across your management. Employees who are made aware of and encouraged by their managers to use available resources are more likely to take advantage of them, and feel empowered to ask for flexibility and consideration when they need it.
It’s important for your current staff, and your future hires, too. An increasingly younger workforce wants to know that they’ll be supported, not just with equitable pay and work-life flexibility, but also with expanded benefits. A recent The New Essentials study from Ketchum, Working Lessons from a Year in the Pandemic, found that 54 percent of employees with children under 18 rank health benefits for them and their families a top priority, and 24 percent of employees surveyed want better mental and physical health benefits than they currently have.
Another thing to consider is the reciprocity of getting help by giving help. Research has shown that volunteering and doing good for others actually triggers an endorphin response, and we can all use more of that. The Trevor Project, Samaritans, and Crisis Text Line are some of my favorite organizations to work with. Check with your HR department to see if your company has organized volunteering activities or includes floating time off for service days in your benefits package.
We can all agree that a key ingredient of resilience is turning down the noise. Sometimes, we can personally control it, but other times (a lot of the time), we can’t and we need a little help. Employers can provide that by building a culture of resilience into the workforce. People are the lifeblood of a business. Without them, corporate resiliency is not just irrelevant, but also impossible.