The pandemic has not just accelerated improvements in tech and business capabilities, and changes in workstyles – it has fundamentally evolved the role, priorities and responsibilities of company leadership. In our challenging digital landscape – and with workers arguably the organisation’s biggest asset – leaders across all industries must adopt a broader view of supporting their teams’ well-being as their influence is felt beyond the board room, argues Richard Guy.
With the Great Resignation in full swing, leaders and hiring managers are scrambling to hire and retain staff, with news like that from Ipsos that one in two British workers were considering a new role.
Workers are putting health first, as a survey by Vitality in partnership with CBI Economics reveals that more than two-thirds (66%) of office employees believe that increased workplace flexibility will better support their mental and physical health and one-fifth (22%) of employees want the freedom to tailor their health and wellbeing to best suit their age and lifestyle.
A ‘Healthy Hybrid’ environment
The health insurance provider’s first step in creating a ‘Healthy Hybrid’ environment for employees is engagement from the top. Added to this, according to a July 2022 McKinsey report, uncaring and uninspiring leaders were a top reason for quitting a previous job, according to 36 percent of those surveyed. And employees are ranking health a key consideration in job decisions, with 25 percent saying lack of support for health and wellbeing was a top factor in their decision to quit a previous job.
Among other top priorities for CEOs such as what working from anywhere (WFA) means for their business and ESG strategising, the “health-savvy CEO,” a concept coined by Deloitte, best articulates the changed focus of the CEO on health and wellbeing. The well-known term, ‘it must come right from the top’ now also extends to the health arena; keeping a healthy business means promoting a culture of health and a day-to-day care of workers that runs through every facet of the organisation.
The impact of Gen Z workers
With leaders prioritising the new physically-distanced working dynamic and HR and hiring managers scrambling to find ways to keep close to workers, this has pushed CEOs to broaden their roles and priorities beyond the typical business objectives of the organisation. CEOs have an additional responsibility to support the health and well-being of employees and the communities where they work.
To health-focused CEOs, leaders must understand that their decisions can impact employee wellness 24/7. Amidst the current labour shortage and Great Resignation, and with the more socially aware Generation Z rising through the ranks, it’s time for employers to show they care about individuals’ health and align to workers’ values.
How worker wellbeing is influenced by the CEO
It’s worth considering how a CEO’s role in promoting wellness can be make or break for business success. Employers’ responsibilities for employee health go beyond physical health, into mental health and overall wellness. This means that values the CEO represents and their personal interest in health can directly influence worker productivity, company reputation, brand loyalty; all impacting the bottom line.
There are some distinct ways in which business leaders can promote wellness and encourage a dynamic work environment:
- Openly promote a caring culture
Beyond having an HR team in place to lead policy and practical implementation of this, leaders’ response to the pressures of the pandemic and major changes it has impacted on individuals are critical. Understanding that work can be conducted flexibly, to allow employees more time for themselves and their personal responsibilities outside of work is now critical for workers.
An Ergotron survey reveals 73 percent of UK workers would choose their next employer based on flexible technology provision and physical, health and wellbeing support. A leader that openly supports charities, spearheads a philanthropy programme which supports the local community and encourages healthier activities engenders positive feeling among the workforce.
- Embrace WFA and movement while working
Understanding that work can be conducted flexibly, to allow employees more time for themselves and their personal responsibilities outside of work has become critical for workers. CEOs who lead by example and substitute in-office meetings for walking meetings and even allowing employees to move more – even stand during meetings – is important. A leader who realises that offering flexibility helps workers to thrive is a positive thing for the organisation. It sets an example for sub-team leaders to follow suit in prioritising worker well-being and to reinforce a movement-friendly culture.
- Promote healthy workspaces
It’s also possible to promote wellness and foster dynamic workspaces by reviewing the ergonomic equipment that employers provide to workers. Through installing mobile desks, height-adjustable workstations for workers, equipped with monitor arms which enable ideal monitor positioning, workers are working in a healthy way which promotes physical health and avoids strains, injuries, and back problems. A subsidy can also be provided for workers to invest in the right ergonomic products for their home offices. In the absence of employer legal responsibility for home office workspaces, leaders that embrace ergonomic working will benefit from happier, healthier, and more productive workers.
- Be open to a change in leadership mindset
Leading with health can never be a bad thing, and can lead to maintaining a fairer and more positive workplace for all. If you haven’t already, establishing a diversity, equity and inclusion programme is one of the most important missions a business can have in 2022, as well as setting up employee resource groups, which can enrich work culture and positively impact the team, customers and communities.
- Get behind mindfulness
Taking a more advanced approach, establishing mindfulness and meditation sessions can help alleviate stress in the workforce, which is often seen as a barrier to achieving potential. Giving workers time in the day to not think about work and pressure of tasks to complete can give them space to re-charge and re-vitalise – to promote effective collaboration and ideas development. Thinking more about the way we act can improve skills like patience and listening which are vital to effective teamwork.
Take a balanced approach to leadership challenges
The uncertainty of the pandemic has proved that challenges will remain a constant for the CEO, even with the best planning. Therefore, a balanced approach to leadership challenges allows the CEO to focus on tackling current challenges, while looking to the future. Applying your principles, such as health, rather than policies can be the best approach in difficult non-textbook circumstances.
One of the biggest challenges has been unearthed as ways to create flexible workspaces, that are productive and healthy for workers. In the hybrid work landscape, health-savvy business leaders who prioritise their workers’ wellbeing will gain the most value – for themselves, their workers, and the bottom line. With looking after workers one of the biggest challenges for CEOs in 2022, living and breathing a healthy outlook will pay dividends.
Richard Guy is the Country Sales Manager UK and Ireland at Ergotron.