For many executives, pivoting directly from two years of pandemic-related stressors into ongoing supply chain crises, worker shortages, inflation and possible recession, and global political upheaval may seem like too much to manage. According to a recent Deloitte survey, nearly 70% of executives are considering leaving their jobs for something that better supports their well-being.
Yet executives aren’t alone in their quest for improved well-being. In fact, the same survey reveals a huge disconnect between what executives believe about corporate support for well-being and what employees believe.
In this environment where employees and executives are exhausted from constant change and committed to a renewed focus on well-being, we see several ways companies can support and encourage holistic health across their organizations.
1. Clarify “well-being”
Before undertaking large-scale initiatives or implementing new benefits, executives should take the time to clarify what both they and employees mean by “well-being.” “This comes up in the career framework, when someone says, ‘I need work-life balance,’ I say, ‘well, how do you define work-life balance?’” says Taura Prosek, Director, Business Development. “For one person, it’s flexibility. For someone else, it’s only 40 hours per week. Well-being is a very general statement.”
Using employee surveys, interviews, and candid conversations with employees at all levels, leaders can clarify the general definition of well-being for their organization and establish a definition that encompasses the bulk of sentiment. For instance, an outdoor or recreational equipment company may define well-being mainly in terms of fitness, travel, and adventure. In contrast, a manufacturing company may employ many people with families who define well-being in terms of health benefits and parental leave. Employees at both organizations may be interested in flexibility. Every company culture will show slightly different priorities.
2. Clarify Responsibility
Well-being is, at root, something individual and personal, and employees are responsible for driving their own well-being. “How much do we put on the corporate environment when it's really our lives we have to control?” says Prosek. “Not all of this is the corporation’s job.”
Where executives can drive well-being, however, is at the policy and benefit level. Once a thorough and clear definition of well-being has been established, leaders can look at policies and benefits and adjust them to fit the definition. They may discover that flexible work policies are more critical to a broad cross-section of people than a gym membership or that generous mental health benefits and additional paid time off are what most employees want.
3. Leverage Mid-Level Managers
One of the most shocking statistics from the Deloitte survey was the distinct gap between leadership and employees on matters of well-being. While 91% of executives think their employees believe they care about well-being, only 56% of employees think the C-suite cares about their well-being.
This gap represents an excellent opportunity for mid-level managers and leaders. “If you’re a frontline or mid-level leader, you know your company culture and what programs and benefits your company offers,” says Nolan Godfrey, Regional Director & Executive Consultant. “You can work within those constraints, go to your people, and have a conversation about how to best address personal circumstances while maximizing your outcomes.” Leaders at this level can help maximize business results and people results within the constraints of culture and policy.
4. Communicate—and Communicate More!
It’s often true that even when leaders think they’re communicating, there is still a disconnect between what they believe and what employees hear. “It doesn’t matter whether you’re talking about employee wellness or health or whatever it is; if there’s a disconnect, it’s going to go from top to bottom,” says Peter Stewart, Managing Partner. “Even when the C-suite thinks it’s doing enough, it’s nowhere near enough. Get that feedback, give those touchpoints, overcommunicate.”
Leaders can help close this gap with increased transparency about the importance of well-being. They should openly discuss steps they are personally taking to improve their own well-being, such as taking breaks throughout the day, getting regular exercise, and using vacation time. In addition, they need to openly encourage and promote the same behaviors throughout the company. If the perception gap persists, they should analyze why their teams struggle to communicate. They can help close the perception gap between employees and leaders by prioritizing and discussing employee well-being at all levels.
Personal well-being impacts everyone, from the C-suite to the frontline worker. Given its importance, leaders at all levels should institute conversations about how to improve well-being in their organizations and create an environment where every employee can thrive. When people have a strong sense of well-being, they will drive improved outcomes across the company.
- Is there one consistent piece of feedback about well-being that we hear from employees?
- What is one way I can improve my well-being this week?
- What is one way I can directly communicate support for employee well-being this week?