Companies have specific priorities to help them create traction and build better businesses. They make sure their finances are going well, remain competitive, and engage employees for optimal productivity.
However, during 2020, unprecedented shifts happened. The pandemic and quarantine greatly impacted how organizations operated. Chiefly, among those impacts, were shifts in workplace wellness programs.
Companies were in survival mode, but they also had to address physical safety concerns due to COVID-19. They had to set up work-from-home measures and help combat feelings of disconnect associated with a remote workforce. Now that we’re starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel, companies are beginning another shift from surviving to thriving. They’re expanding their typical view of employee wellness to fit long-term needs.
How to Improve Well-Being in the Workplace
Last year, we saw a rapid evolution in the workplace wellness space. Many companies are learning that employee well-being can affect engagement, productivity, and the bottom line. They’re also discovering that more than just the typical aspects should be included in their wellness programs. A modern wellness program should go beyond telling individual employees how to improve their physical health, for example.
Today, the following should be integrated into a comprehensive strategy.
- Physical well-being | This is the most traditional aspect of a company’s wellness program. It’s related to offering activities and support that focus on physical health.
- Mental health | Employees’ mental well-being has garnered attention and investment recently—especially in light of pandemic stressors.
- Community and connection | A remote workforce highlighted that relationships and employee engagement need to be redefined and fostered more intentionally.
- Telehealth and employee assistance programs | Providing remote medical resources and assistance programs helps employees overcome issues more easily.
- Financial health | A notoriously overlooked, yet critical element of workplace wellness programs includes providing financial planning support, resources, and even extended paid leave.
- Workplace design | Workplace design is an emerging trend that highlights how employees’ work is actually designed to alleviate stressors, improve engagement, and boost productivity.
Proof That Workplace Design Works
Companies that focus on improving their workplace design are experiencing positive results. Microsoft Japan is a great example of an organization using workplace design as a strategic mechanism to increase productivity. It implemented a four-day workweek, encouraged 30-minute meetings, and emphasized its chat messaging system over email. The results? A whopping 40 percent swell in productivity.
To determine the return on investment of workplace wellness programs such as Microsoft Japan’s, measuring employee engagement is key. An engaged workforce has a slew of advantages. These include greater productivity, fewer absences, and increased retention rates. In turn, all of these benefits of workplace wellness programs that focus on workplace design lead to a more profitable company.
Workplace Design as a Strategic Mechanism
Implementing and integrating a thoughtful and strategic work design with well-being in mind is an important step for organizations that want to be industry leaders. There are three key areas of focus that will help any company improve wellness in the workplace using creative workplace design:
1. Stay up to date on technology trends
Keeping up with new technology that enables employees to work remotely with more efficiency and engagement is key to modern workplace design. By staying abreast of emerging trends and better technology practices (such as virtual private networks and desktop-as-a-service offerings), companies set their remote or hybrid workforce up for success. In addition, setting up Slack channels or Zoom meetings that function as virtual break rooms can increase engagement.
2. Create new cultural norms
Your team won’t know how to improve well-being in the workplace using workplace design without a cultural shift that starts at the top. When leaders model the changes in a company’s modern workplace design, employees are much more likely to follow suit. Set up walking meetings, flexible work hours, and a culture of no-meeting days to combat Zoom fatigue. Also, be sure your leadership team embraces those practices.
3. Allow employees to choose wellness initiatives
Not every wellness practice suits every team member. Some (say, parents) might prefer flexible hours, but others might choose to work from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm. Make promoting workplace wellness programs part of the company’s day-to-day. But let your employees pick what works for their lifestyles and preferences.
Companies that pivoted to survive the pandemic must continue to be flexible with their thinking and business practices. It’s clear there’s a “new normal” for a company culture that includes support for remote work, intentional employee engagement practices, and investment in employee well-being in general. Embracing modern workplace design is the next step toward creating an organization that doesn’t just survive, but also thrives.