Employee Wellness & Welfare
9th Oct, 2019
Agile transformation, business transformation, digital transformation, and there are many more transformations that Organizations go through to achieve maximum ROI in a short period. Can you name any organizational transformation which doesn't involve people? It is impossible. Any organization which does not happen to keep its employees into account during its transformation usually fails. Employees stand at the forefront of any transformation and their wellness and welfare decide the success of the transformation.
What is so important about that?
Organizations may say that they usually take care of their employee wellness and welfare. But, they usually talk about bonuses, health insurance, salary increments, and such. We live in an era of knowledge workers and the mind plays an important role in this. I am discussing the mental wellness and welfare of people in the Organization. What as leaders in the Organization done for their employee's mental wellness? It's a question that doesn't have answers most of the time. Only a handful of Organizations do take care of such things. Human resources in every Organization have to take care of this, but do they?
Let us see some important areas which usually hurts the mental well-being of the employees in any organization.
Anxiety is an intellectual killer. It subsides the mental performance of any human being. Constant worrying of any kind eventually leads to anxious behavior. In a complex environment where people have to develop products to solve customer problems, it's not easy to think when they are constantly put under pressure.
Micromanagement, peer pressure, nagging for results, the threat of appraisal, false promises, and so on keeps people anxious. Instead of using their mind for thinking about creating new things, they keep thinking of imaginary problems that do not even exist at times. Even though a person is intelligent and has a higher IQ, they will eventually perform less than the average person if presented with anxious situations. Anxiety keeps them spending their precious time and energy on anticipatory things, which do not happen. This takes their focus away from what is important.
Management needs to understand that knowledge workers are not laborers and treating them as such makes them as such. Presenting them with constant anxiety also reduces new learning activities and will result in a further decline in cognitive abilities. It further drives people towards negative thinking. Negative thinking is another serious concern in employee wellness. This eventually leads them to hate their job, their company, and even themselves. Negative thinking also leads to the destruction of the immune system in the body. Anxious people will fall slowly into negative thinking and then into depression.
A study suggests that an estimated 65% of people are depressed in India alone. This is mainly due to untrained supervisors, unskilled people managers, and a human resource department who are not doing their job. Many people falsely understand Human resources as a hire and fire team. They are supposed to take care of complete employee wellness which is not limited to salary and allowances. Transparency, Equality, respect, and openness should be present.
• One best thing to reduce constant anxiety in the workplace is to create transparency about everything that happens in the organization (management).
• Sharing information only to a specific group of Individuals in the Organization should not be encouraged.
• Information about everything should be made available to all people in the Organization.
I have personally seen in most cases that if someone attends the interview, the results are not even shared. It creates a certain level of anxiety for the person who attended the interview. Making them wait longer for the results creates more surge in their intellectual abilities. Rather than spending their thoughts wisely, they tend to battle imaginary situations regarding the results. These are some of the day-to-day things that happen in Organizations that lead to anxiety. It is wise to watch out for patterns that lead to anxiousness.
If the situation that demands attention is repetitive, people consider it so boring. Same time, if the situation is beyond challenging, people fall into anxiety. It's a trap. The right amount of everything is what keep people going. It should have the right amount of balance in the challenge so that it leads to learning. Is the environment right for learning?
In a psychological study conducted, people who spend the right amount of time learning and exploring new things emerged as top performers. While the people who do the boring job went ahead and indulged themselves in office gossip, binge-watching TV, and other activities that let them demotivated.
Howard Gardner, a Harvard psychologist analyzed kids and presented a word which is "flow" that applies to kids. I have modified the statement to fit an adult and here is how it is.
"It is an internal state that signifies a person is engaged in the right task. You have found something you like and stick to it. It's when where they get bored in the workplace and they act up and show a false attitude, and when they're overwhelmed by a challenge they get anxious about their work. But you learn at your best when you have something you care about and you can get pleasure from being engaged in."
It is about playing with the natural strength of a person's skills and trying to slowly help them overcome their weakness. Gardner also adds, "When people gain flow from the learning, they will be able to take up challenges in new areas". It is about helping people get better at what they do which Organizations are in dire need of. But they aren't doing anything about it.
Gallup's extensive research study states that in the United States 50% of employees are not actively engaged at work and nearly other 20% are actively disengaged. The total cost of all this disengagement is about $300 billion a year in lost productivity which is larger than the GDP of Singapore, Portugal, or Israel. According to McKinsey consulting, in some countries, engagement is as little as 2 to 3 percent.
Human beings are social animals. We learn together, we learn from others, and most of all we watch and learn. Organizations need to have a community of practice from which employees learn and share. It goes way back to school days. The weak student will always be paired with the brightest and there is a strong reason for this learning psychology. They watch and learn from one another. Pair programming, pair testing, having a discovery team, etc. is all part of learning from one another. Organizations need to encourage such practices for their employees to learn and help them achieve their flow.
First thing is to find passion. As representatives of the Organization, the first step is to identify the passion of individuals and check what the Organization has to offer. As common people, we need to understand that many a time people do not get the job they wanted and usually end up with the ones they get. It is part of making a living. Understand that not everyone likes what they do and it is because they are not passionate about it. Community of practice/learning is not only for the technology or process. I have seen personally in Organizations where they have a community for music bands, chess, books, cricket, and a lot of many stuff. When people connect to their passion and needs inside the workplace, it helps them to contribute better.
A platform to learn what they want to learn and the ability to connect it back to the work they do will help the individual to excel at the workplace. It gives them high motivation to come to the workplace and contribute something that brings value to Organization. Learning happens continuously in the process.
Watch this space for more wellness and welfare. I will keep writing.