Report: Employee Wellbeing Among Top Workforce Trends

Gallagher’s most recent workforce trends survey found that employers nationwide are taking a more agile approach to retention by addressing key employee concerns, including wellbeing.

Lenny Brucato. Courtesy of Gallagher

Lenny Brucato, Michigan regional president for Gallagher’s human resources and benefits consulting division, and Emily Brainerd, national wellness and engagement practice leader, spoke to The Business Journal last month about the Gallagher survey of labor force trends in the fourth quarter released in the first quarter.

The survey found that 40% of employers cite employee well-being as one of their organization’s top three leadership concerns, alongside burnout (48%) and talent loss ( 43%).

Additionally, organizations have realized that providing “innovative and effective” mental health programs and services can help reduce the risk of losing good people and attract new talent, Gallagher said.

According to the report, companies are taking steps like these to support the mental health of their employees:

  • Normalizing conversations about mental health: Many organizations are using the workplace to talk about the importance of caring for an individual’s emotional well-being in and out of the office by offering e-learning tools, implementing ongoing training on mental health and using non-stigmatizing language in communication campaigns.
  • Increase leadership and management training: Line managers and different levels of leadership play an active role in creating a supportive work environment, the report says. Leaders learn how to have effective conversations about emotional well-being, identify employees who may be struggling, deal with challenges and changes in the workplace, and develop coping skills for greater resilience .
  • Improving access to care: Organizations are taking advantage of new virtual care service options to accommodate flexible work arrangements and hybrid work environments, Gallagher found.
  • Provide multigenerational care and resources: Every generation faces mental health issues, and organizations are introducing various care solutions targeting each life stage into their offerings, depending on the results.
  • Ensure a social link: To address the need for human connection, employers are creating ways for employees to interact with each other through employee resource groups, a social wall to share photos, or a challenge to get to know a colleague in the next cube or in another country, Gallagher said.
  • Employee contract: According to the report, nearly three out of four employers surveyed said they consider employee engagement to be one of the top people metrics in determining future business success.
Emilie Brainerd. Courtesy of Gallagher

Brainerd said, reading the national data, she was not surprised that one of the biggest challenges reported by employers was the emotional well-being of workers, not only due to the COVID-19 pandemic. , but of the constant and shared unrest in the United States and around the world right now – wars, political infighting and more.

“Everyone is constantly changing and in an unfamiliar place. What will happen next? … This is the world we live in right now,” she said.

“Employers are waking up to this and seeing that their employee population is struggling…but I think we still have to get over this hump of employers actually taking action – really investing in solutions and resources for their employees.”

She said one of the areas where employers have taken action is providing access to virtual care. As Gallagher spoke to vendors/vendors, they said what might have otherwise taken them 10 years to develop has been accelerated due to COVID lockdowns.

Not only that, but employers have been working to communicate this option, and people of all ages and demographics – even the less tech-savvy – have started using it.

“I don’t think we will move away from virtual care,” she said. “I think people have found it to be convenient, it’s easy to use (and) they don’t have to walk away from work, so it really helps employers with productivity and the absenteeism factor .”

Brucato said virtual care options also help employees feel more comfortable caring for their mental health.

“One of the challenges that existed around emotional well-being and access to care for a variety of these needs, before the pandemic, was the stigma associated with admitting there were challenges and raise your hand and need help or be willing to access the services that were available,” he said.

“From a national point of view, there has been a light on the need and the importance of this. And what virtual access has enabled people to do is access care not only conveniently, but also more discreetly. As (workers) are starting to get more comfortable with the idea of ​​asking for that help and taking advantage of what’s available, the behavioral health option on a virtual basis has given them access to take advantage of the how they feel most comfortable.

Additionally, virtual care allows people with busy work schedules to take 30 minutes out of their day to address mental health issues instead of adding a drive to and from a doctor’s office, it said. -he declares.

Brainerd said one of the first steps employers should take to ensure better employee well-being is to assess their organizational structure and ensure a strong leadership and management team is in place that takes these issues seriously and has policies and procedures in place that address the work-life balance necessary for good health.

“These resources that we talked about are only successful if the structure of the organization works as a whole and the culture of the organization,” she said.

“If you put a really strong, good mental health resource – access to mental health care – into an organization that’s mired in other challenges, it’s going to be that much harder for that employee to take advantage of that. resource and to make good use of it,” she said.

She said the best organizations will carefully consider what they are doing that could negatively affect the mental and emotional health of employees – adding that it is essential that leaders do not expect their priorities to ripple organically. on direction. Training must be formalized.

“We all know that one of the main reasons people quit is because of their relationship with their direct manager, and therefore to continue to develop the skills of those direct managers to manage in a hybrid work environment – that’s is a new set of skills,” she said. mentioned. “…Also, making sure these managers are actually taking care of their own well-being is a big trend that we’re going to start to see a lot of attention on.”

Brucato said it’s also important to recognize that humans are social creatures, so one aspect of wellbeing is making sure they always have the opportunity to engage with their colleagues, even if they’re work a predominantly remote schedule.

“How do you get people back into the office in a way that they regain some of that sense of community and belonging that comes with interacting with your peers?” he said.

Another tension in the game is when new young teammates are brought in who have never been part of the workplace in person, he said.

“Think about the impact on new talent, young talent, coming into the organization, and how do they really learn to be effective and successful within this organization, their business model, their culture, if from the time they graduated or were recruited to the organization, they work from their living room or basement and report to someone they have never physically met?” he said .

“The experience you gain and the knowledge you gain just by watching someone do their job or being there to ask questions, this new emerging workforce doesn’t get that benefit as widely as we do. have done with this new way of working. Many of our clients are starting to wonder how they are doing it.

Michael A. Bynum