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Creating Well-Being in the Workplace

Creating Well-Being in the Workplace

Sept. 7, 2021
"Employees are going to change the workforce and the way that companies engage and care for them as a whole person. This is a good thing as it's going to make the working world a kinder place to be," says Jen Fisher, chief well-being officer, Deloitte.

Due to the life-altering experience of the pandemic, our thinking about the workplace has changed. A fundamental change is the realization that workers that had been taken for granted are now categorized as essential. At the same time, employees are determining what's essential to have in their work which is leading many people to leave their jobs.  Dubbed the “great resignation, it’s a wake-up call for leaders who must figure out both how to hold onto employees and be able to attract future workers.

Jen Fisher, U.S. chief well-being officer, Deloitte, has a few ideas. The first step is to change leadership styles. She learned this lesson first-hand, as she describes in her new book, author of “Work Better Together: How to Cultivate Strong Relationships to Maximize Well-Being and Boost Bottom Lines,” 

I remember the moment I realized that meaningful relationships are key to not only being a great colleague but also being a great manager. It was the day that a member of my team, a team that I had been managing for a few years, came to me and said, “I don’t want to work for you anymore,”. It wasn’t the job she was leaving; it was her manager she wanted to leave—and I was that manager.

Why didn’t I see this coming? I wrongly assumed that I could expect things from her without asking, checking in, and making time for personal interaction.”

More Tech More Human Touch

Personal interaction has become more challenging, both due to our move this past year and a half into all things virtual, but also due to continuing march of artificial intelligence (AI) and its ever-expanding role in how we do our jobs. However, Fisher feels that as technology takes over the routine part of our jobs, it frees time that can now be concentrated on the human aspects of work –creative, cognitive, and intellectual. “These are the so-called soft skills –  but they are the skills of the future,” she writes in her book. These soft skills should be called essential skills, she points out. Other skills needed critical thinking, emotional intelligence, authenticity, and empathy.

Taking an Emotional Temperature

These human skills, which will be part of everyone’s jobs, must also be incorporated into how leaders manage the workforce.  

While these are not new concepts, just accelerated due to the pandemic, why haven’t companies changed their thinking already? “Many companies just don’t know to do this as work has always been viewed separately from the worker’s personal life,” Fisher explains. “Managers were trained to reward those who put in long hours, not understanding the toll that took on someone’s health and well-being. Now we need to switch what we value and celebrate what is uniquely human such as creativity and the ability to problem-solve -- things that the machines that work with us are unable to do.” 

Moving to a culture that concentrates and values employees’ well-being isn’t as hard as companies might think, says Fisher. “The first thing to do is to have open lines of communication to find out what your workforce wants. The form doesn’t matter – it can be surveys, focus groups, or direct conversations.  A company needs to understand where its workforce is at before creating and investing money in well-being programs.”

In her book, Fisher outlines five ways that a team leader can contribute to well-being programs.

 Encourage open conversations.

Focus on creating a safe workplace where people feel comfortable speaking openly about physical, relational, and mental health. Offer different avenues for personal conversation—openly in teams or in confidence with resources like a counselor.

 Make rest and recovery a priority.

At different points in the year, encourage large populations to disconnect together to allow everyone time for rest and recovery. Make it a point of culture that people can also choose time off when they need it. Check that rest and recovery time is used by everyone, with equity and as much personal choice as possible.

 Build mental health literacy.

Add virtual courses in mental health to the learning program so that everyone is conversant and comfortable with the issues. It’s a topic many find distressing because of old cultural stigmas or personal anxiety. A well-being program treats mental health with candor, offering resources, tools, and educational opportunities to help people who are suffering.

 Support healthy habits.

Offer a well-being subsidy to help offset the costs of well-being-related products and services, like meditation instruction, yoga classes, and fees associated with gyms, hiking trails, charitable runs, horseback riding, and more.

 Share through storytelling.

Teach employees to share their experiences related to mental health and tell their stories in their own words. These stories are shared and promoted throughout the organization, and they are a great exercise in team bonding.

Focusing on well-being is going to reap far-reaching benefits, says Fisher. "Employees are going to change the workforce and the way that companies engage and care for them as a  whole person. This is a good thing as it's going to make the working world a kinder place to be." 

About the Author

Adrienne Selko | Senior Editor

Focus: Workforce, Talent 

Follow Me on Twitter: @ASelkoIW

Bio: Adrienne Selko has written about many topics over the 17 years she has been with the publication and currently focuses on workforce development strategies. Previously Adrienne was in corporate communications at a medical manufacturing company as well as a large regional bank. She is the author of Do I Have to Wear Garlic Around My Neck? which made the Cleveland Plain Dealer's best sellers list. She is also a senior editor at Material Handling & Logistics and EHS Today

Editorial mission statement: Manufacturing is the enviable position of creating products, processes and policies that solve the world’s problems. When the industry stepped up to manufacture what was necessary to combat the pandemic, it revealed its true nature. My goal is to showcase the sector’s ability to address a broad range of workforce issues including technology, training, diversity & inclusion, with a goal of enticing future generations to join this amazing sector.

Why I find manufacturing interesting: On my first day working for a company that made medical equipment such as MRIs, I toured the plant floor. On every wall was a photo of a person, mostly children. I asked my supervisor why this was the case and he said that the work we do at this company has saved these people’s lives. “We never forget how important our work is and everyone’s contribution to that.” From that moment on I was hooked on manufacturing.

I have talked with many people in this field who have transformed their own career development to assist others. For example, companies are hiring those with disabilities, those previously incarcerated and other talent pools that have been underutilized. I have talked with leaders who have brought out the best in their workforce, as well as employees doing their best work while doing good for the world. 

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