“We're not working from home. We're sleeping at the office.” This was a common complaint among highly stressed and overworked employees the world over during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Some normality has now returned to our working lives, but the world has fundamentally changed. While most organizations are adopting flexible working practices and employees may be going to the office less frequently, there is a lingering sense that we are available 24x7, often working after hours and with increased workloads. This is leading to low morale, stress and anxiety for many.
There is no doubt we’re now in a job seekers' market. People choose how and where they want to work, and they think about work very differently. Many have changed their careers, and many are deliberately changing their jobs because they want to work in an environment that is more conducive to wellbeing.
This means organizations need a clear and compelling value proposition, a different approach to the working environment and a priority focus on how they support their people to look after all aspects of their health.
And it’s not just about physical health; mental wellness is critical too. It’s about helping employees to be the best they can be, physically, mentally and emotionally. Wellbeing is about thinking soundly, making good judgments, being emotionally resilient and connecting with others in a healthy way.
Supporting and enabling the wellbeing of employees is not a one-size-fits-all endeavor. You can't just say, “Yes, we take mental health seriously, so on World Mental Health Day we’ll ask our employees to think about their mental health.” It must be a deeply ingrained commitment that is visible across every facet of an organization every day.
Going beyond ‘Wellness Wednesday’
As wellbeing specialist Lana Hindmarch puts it, “Wellness Wednesday is not a wellbeing strategy.” Rather, wellbeing is about inclusiveness, embracing individuality and providing an environment where people can contribute and feel valued, learn and grow, knowing they are part of something great.
Ensuring that our people feel a sense of belonging and are valued for who they are is a core part of our employee value proposition. We’re also embracing a philosophy we call “Connected Working”, which is centered on two tenets: flexibility and connection.
Connecting with other humans is a fundamental need. We can’t be mentally well and feel accepted, included and valued without making these connections.
Mental wellness through technology
It feels almost counterintuitive to use technology to improve wellbeing, because we all know how much stress relates to being “always on” around the clock through our devices. But we do believe that we can use technology for good.
We want to make sure that the technology and tools we provide our people work seamlessly and help them to stay connected, whether they’re at their desks, at home or in a remote location. We can't be hamstrung by inefficient technology.
We are also introducing a new virtual wellbeing coach for all our employees: a simple, unobtrusive little app that sits on a user’s desktop and is customizable to their lifestyle. It provides reminders throughout the day to take a moment to breathe, stretch or walk around, or to eat something healthy – whatever they think they need. It's only one small piece of the puzzle, but we believe it will help our people manage their health more actively day to day – ultimately forming healthier working habits.
Beyond this technology, we’re also looking at other ways to give our people the time and space they need to invest in themselves and more opportunities to focus on their career growth.
So, as we mark World Mental Health Day on 10 October, ask yourself: is your organization doing enough to nurture the mental wellbeing of the people who sustain it?
Diana Harris is Senior Vice President, Employee Engagement and Transformation, at NTT.