Leadership 26th May 2020

Wellness in tech. Why a global crisis has made us all rethink

Wellness, whats tech got to do with it?

Technology and people have consistently played a critical role in how a business operates – and whether it succeeds or fails. For years leaders have been building teams that are equipped to be able to work side-by-side with advanced digital methods and smart machines.

But has the wellness surrounding this always been of the same paramount importance? Perhaps not for many organisations – until now. The wellness of staff and their workplace infrastructures have come to the fore during this pandemic as people continue to battle anxieties – and the complexities that come with working remotely and maintaining productivity during a devastating global health crisis.

Navigating the ability to ‘switch off’ has long been a question that many companies have tried to overcome – following the explosion of technology. With work-based apps such as email and messenger services at an employees’ fingertips, managing these whilst teams work remotely has presented HR and logistical nightmares for many enterprises.

But, the mass move to working from home has also delivered many positives. From getting to spend quality time with family, avoiding a lengthy commute and completing tasks with autonomy and flexibility, employees have felt empowered to take control of their roles, agile managers have helped their staff to adapt quickly to vast change and remain engaged.

However, with anything, there are always some downsides. According to Buffer’s 2019 State of Remote Work report, location flexibility has led to 49% of remote workers saying their biggest struggle is wellness-related. The reasons being that 22% feel like they can’t unplug after work, 19% are lonely and 8% struggle to stay motivated.

So, when enterprises across the globe are experiencing a critical need to be swift, adaptable and operationally robust, why do only 29% of HR leaders have a health and well-being strategy (2020 Mercer Talent Trends study) in place? At a time when businesses need leaders the most, much more can be done – and there are lessons to be learnt throughout.

There’s much more to wellness than mental health initiatives

Overall, employees need to feel safe in their workplace environment – regardless of location. They want to know their company trusts and values their input but also have access to gaining the skills that they need, in order to complete their projects remotely. Managers must be empathetic to everyone’s struggles, including their own, if they’re to get the best out of their teams.

So, how can this be achieved? Forward-thinking leaders find themselves at a critical turning point where they need to act quickly and gauge the level of systems and IT infrastructure their organisation currently has in place. They should be strongly positioned, understanding how each staff member’s setting maintains operational, cultural and mental wellness. And, wellbeing needs are imperative throughout it all – and entirely individual to each employee battling their own mental recovery from an unprecedented crisis.

Additionally, the C-suite must be agile and adaptable when addressing the flexible nature of what a ‘life after lockdown’ challenge looks like. Setting a firm return to work date is out of the circle of influence for most but we can present options for a staggered approach to meet every requirement. Again, it’s important to factor in how people are still feeling during this time – many of which (88% according to mental health provider Ginger’s recent survey) have experienced ‘moderate to extreme’ stress over the past four to six weeks impacted by uncontrollable matters such as financial worries, home schooling or the health of family and friends.

So, there is a commitment to be made from managers – something they can demonstrate by providing a safe, working environment and being empathetic to how employees must be feeling in real-time. And throughout all this, technology has a vital part to play in team wellness.

Effectively adapting now can positively impact business continuity

Utilising digital apps to provide mental health programmes – such as licensed counsellors on call – or mindfulness and stress management platforms can assist, alongside helpful resources people can consume in their own time. Managers should be savvy in their approach when combining tech and wellness each day.

From online training and upskilling opportunities to helping staff members focus on their own personal development and simply providing tools to control workflows and interact with colleagues – each element can play a vital role when used correctly.

And for many organisations, these practices may already have been in place and running smoothly, but what this global crisis has done is driven all enterprises to truly prioritise these methods – and give wellness the attention it deserves. It should never be a ‘phase’ or tick-box exercise either because it is Mental Health Awareness Week in May, for example. These processes should be rolled-out each and every single day.

Uniting a team has never been more important and it has perhaps forced the hands of many organisations to ‘get it right’. But leaders who commit to evolving their wellness programmes, maintain a mental health focus and meet technological demands can put themselves in a stronger position to positively impact their firm’s long-term health throughout – and beyond – this pandemic.

This article first appeared in We are Tech Women, read it here

To hear more of Kirsty’s thoughts on mental health, click here

 

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