The Happiness Challenge in the New World of Work

Over the past year, workplaces have sought to prioritize mental health initiatives like never before, putting employees first as the world of work navigated happiness in new and profound ways.

This month, the world celebrated International Day of Happiness, established in 2011 by the United Nations as it called for “a more inclusive, equitable and balanced approach to economic growth that promotes the happiness and well-being of all peoples.” Over the past year, mental health and well-being has been put to the ultimate test due to the unprecedented global health crisis of COVID-19. Workplaces have sought to prioritize mental health initiatives like never before, putting employees first as the world of work navigated happiness in new and profound ways.

Employers Responded to Employee Well-Being Needs

According to a survey of 5,000 employees conducted in the fourth quarter of 2020, more than one-quarter (29%) reported feeling depressed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. In response, most organizations took “emergency measures” to support their staff. The survey found that 87% of employers provided flexible work hours to employees acting as caregivers for their families, including 26% who gave employees paid time off (PTO) for childcare and 21% who gave PTO for eldercare.

An additional survey of 50 HR leaders showed that 64% of companies provided a new well-being offering to support their staff, while 34% expanded access to their current offerings. Employees took advantage of these offerings, with nearly half (49%) of employees who reported their organization offers a mental well-being program took advantage of it in the last year, demonstrating the importance of such programs to many employees.

The Continued Importance of Well-Being Policies

Worldwide ERC®’s new research on remote work that surveyed a global panel of 600 CHROs and senior HR leaders found that a resounding 100% of respondents implemented at least some form of remote work policy, with roughly half of them rolling out formal “work from anywhere” policies. The report also shows that offering a better work-life balance was the top priority for senior HR leaders trying to mitigate the toll that the pandemic, and working remotely, can take on employees.

Also, according to the 2021 World Happiness Report, supportive management and job flexibility grew in significance as drivers of workplace well-being during the pandemic for those who remained employed. Other drivers of importance - such as trust, support, inclusivity and belonging – remained unchanged, suggesting that “what makes workplaces supportive of well-being in normal times also makes them more resilient in hard times.” Programs and policies will continue to evolve to meet the needs of the remote workforce, and senior HR leaders will be key players in shaping them for their organizations, even beyond the COVID-19 pandemic.

Taking Steps Toward Employee Health and Well-Being

So how can employers and HR leaders ensure that their well-being programs are meeting the mental health and well-being needs of their employees? Gartner’s report suggests that organizations must ensure alignment between what the employers offer and what employees demand. This is because less than half (46%) of employees feel that their workplace well-being programs are personalized, and about half (49%) agree that their manager understands their problems and needs. To mitigate this, employers can offer more program choice, while also establishing programs and policies that are prepared for the next unexpected global event.

Additionally, taking steps to reduce employee burnout, such as reviewing PTO, balancing workloads effectively to ease employee burdens, and having more one-on-one conversations between managers and employees, can go a long way in improving employee well-being. Wellness programs that have been adapted to the remote work environment, as well as offering wellness seminars and coaching can ensure that employees are offered ample resources and avenues to address their personalized mental health and well-being needs, no matter where work is going.

Want to Learn More?

Improved employee work-life balance was just one of the key priorities for senior HR leaders navigating the new landscape of remote work. To learn more about the transformed world of work and how employers are tackling new challenges, Worldwide ERC® launched Transformation of the Global Workforce: Remote Work, focusing on remote work policies and perspectives from global senior HR leaders. Check it out!

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