Last updated: How to improve employee well-being: Humanity enters the workplace

How to improve employee well-being: Humanity enters the workplace


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What happens when employees get promoted? Sometimes, they assume they’ll have to give up an aspect of themselves so they can live up to their perceived expectations of their new role. Perhaps you’ve experienced this yourself: You quit a beloved hobby or stopped exercising because you felt you didn’t have the time, given your new responsibilities. Or you felt you couldn’t be as authentic or ‘human’ as you climbed the corporate ladder. But then you felt the rest of your life – including your performance at work – enter a free-fall.

How can HR leaders improve employee well-being? What can they do to keep workers healthy and feeling fulfilled throughout the employee lifecycle?

From flexible work arrangements to employee support programs, a better employee experience begins with a culture dedicated to company values and compassionate leadership.

Improve employee well-being by making wellness a priority

Leading telecommunications company TELUS supports its workforce by focusing on five aspects of employee well-being: physical, psychological, social, environmental, and financial well-being.

In a recent episode of Forward Thinking with Adam Grant, Sandy McIntosh, CHRO at TELUS McIntosh recounted how she met a vice president who quit playing hockey when he stepped into his senior leadership role. The seriousness of hockey as a Canadian pastime aside, this employee was in a crisis over his work-life balance.

“Nobody explicitly says to you, ‘Stop doing these things.’ But also, unfortunately, nobody explicitly says to you, ‘Keep doing those things,’” McIntosh says. “And our job in the organization as leaders is to come at it from five angles . . . because well-being is not just mental. It’s not just physical.”

TELUS emphasizes compassionate and flexible leadership and created policies and practices that revolutionized employees’ very understanding of health.

These leaders are also taking an important next step to transforming the employee experience: they’re bringing humanity into the workplace. They’re considering the “whole person,” as McIntosh puts it, to drive effective employee strategies truly focused on employees.

Now, leaders know to approach every interaction with employees with physical, psychological, social, environmental, and financial well-being in mind. Discussions about salary don’t come without taking into consideration an employee’s financial status and how that keeps their social and environmental markers healthy, too.

The quality of our work is impacted by the quality of our lives

As an employee, I experienced this personally. Now, as an HR consultant, I see it among my clients’ employees. To find out what others in HR think about the TELUS approach to taking care of its employees, I had a LinkedIn Live discussion with two HR leaders – Sharlyn Lauby and Katrina Collier. You can watch the replay here.

For Lauby, an HR author and president of ITM Group, businesses need to stop employees from making assumptions about their roles and expectations.

Why do employees think they need to work overnight, take tasks home, or come to the office over the weekend? For employees to be open about the fact that they’re overworked or struggling, employers they must feel safe in saying these truths, so employers must empower them to be honest.

“All these things fall into place when there’s compassion and leaders will admit their vulnerability,” Lauby says.

A culture focused on flexibility improves employee well-being

For Collier, an author and facilitator, flexibility is the key to creating holistically healthy and satisfying employee experiences. But today, many companies take a very one-sided approach to flexibility, focusing only on encouraging employees to work from home.

Now that employees have experienced the work-from-home lifestyle, many continue to struggle to make it work. How can an employee live up to expectations for collaboration and innovation when they don’t have the tools or technology to make it happen?

TELUS found success in its flexible strategy, which offers hybrid and remote options to employees, thanks to its strong company culture centered on key values.

For instance, if management values innovation, they’ll make sure employees are empowered with the tools they need to innovate – whether they work in the office, at home, or anywhere in between. So, TELUS uses its own telecommunications services and technologies to help its employees work effectively and uphold the company values for collaboration and so on.

“Understanding the culture starts in the interview process. We want to make sure in the dialogue with the people that we’re meeting that we’re overt with our values and what matters most to us,” McIntosh says.

Increasingly, McIntosh says, candidates tell her that they expect interviews to work both ways – while TELUS interviews candidates, candidates interview the company to gain an understanding of the employee experience. Whether candidates realize it or not, they’re likely examining how that company approaches their well-being.

Well-being beyond the workplace

Another important aspect of the employee experience – and overall employee well-being – is how employees perceive their work environment. Today’s employees don’t see their office as a bubble that they leave behind at the end of the day.

They want to know their employer exists as part of a thriving community. Increasingly, Collier and Lauby say they see employee satisfaction is tied to how responsibly an employer treats the surrounding community and the world at large.

“I always joke about it this way: can you wear the company’s t-shirt into the grocery store and be proud that you’re wearing the company logo?” Lauby asks.

Work doesn’t work like it once did.
Win, retain, and grow talent in a changing, competitive landscape. Real-life proof points →HERE.

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