In this guest post, Nuz Chagan, award-winning wellbeing strategist and Head of Wellbeing Strategy for Govox, a proactive technology platform that provides insights for wellbeing leaders, shares the key themes and trends she believes we’ll see in the workplace in 2023.
2023 is set to be a year of change for the HR industry. ISO45003 – the first global standard on managing psychological health in the workplace – is set to put a huge, industry-wide focus on the need for companies and organisations to prioritise mental wellbeing, as well as physical health.
This needs to lead to normalising and supporting the mental health and wellbeing of those we are responsible for, as well as operationalising diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility. In this context, I believe we will see some clear trends as we move into 2023.
With the impact of the cost of living crisis set to bite harder, the financial wellbeing of employees will continue to come to the fore – and employers must understand that financial hardship impacts every aspect of a workers’ life. Salaries are not increasing with inflation and many are struggling as a result. There is also a gap here in the perception of senior teams and the reality – recent research has shown that whilst 90% of employers think that their employees feel supported when it comes to money – the reality is that just half (52%) do.
There is a clear link between financial wellbeing and mental health, and employers need to be conscious of the role they play in this. Paying a living wage to employees is vital to ensure businesses are part of the solution and not the problem. We see through Govox data increasing levels of stress amongst workers as well as sleepless nights. The link between financial struggles and worsening performance at work is an easy one to demonstrate.
Employers may want to consider practical help too. For example, providing workshops that can educate employees on the importance of saving and consolidating debt and highlighting trusted sources of advice or support where employees can talk anonymously about financial worries. Or offering short-term, interest-free loans for emergency scenarios – this can make a tangible difference to how supported employees feel, offer them a small safety net, and prevent them from becoming prey for loan sharks. Employers can also indirectly help with living costs, such as allowing staff to be flexible with working hours to save on peak-time transport costs.
Improving culture + inclusivity
The pandemic and increasing levels of working from home are impacting the ability to engender a positive office culture. With more employees working remotely, it is vital that companies are able to create a sense of connection and community between workers that is inclusive and where individuals feel a sense of belonging. Creating and cultivating trusted relationships and fostering collaboration and teamwork can directly impact this.
Inclusivity is key when it comes to creating the right culture. Neurodiversity and those differently-abled need to be accounted for at the talent acquisition stage, and this requires businesses to understand this area and how adaptations may be needed. Workplace wellbeing frameworks cannot work in a silo without DE&I included in it. There will be more conversations around health equity and the need to consider individuals in terms of their health needs in 2023.
Prioritising mental health
The tides are changing rapidly here, and business as usual will no longer do. There is a clear, global movement, with WHO guidelines, the US Surgeon General’s Wellbeing Framework, ESG strategy, UN 17 SDG and many more coming together as part of this. There is also an increasing expectation from younger workers that employers take this seriously. But change must come top-down through the right leadership. Leaders should feel comfortable showing vulnerability themselves and, at the same time, understand what is going on at the grassroots level in their company.
Alongside this, they must be more proactive in and involved with mental health issues, and it must be a key issue in the boardroom – ideally with representation in the room to drive the agenda forward. Businesses will also look to quantify the ROI of looking after employees’ mental health – we are seeing some companies do this very successfully, demonstrating the impact of good mental health practices on the bottom line.
Whilst the pandemic is over, the effect on mental health is still being felt by many. What we do know is that employees who are experiencing mental ill-health will not always speak up. This is where technology can really help, with platforms such as Govox, which give employees regular, proactive wellbeing check-ins, helping to identify those who are struggling. We will see prevention, rather than a cure, being more of a key mental health theme in 2023.
Creating work-life harmony
The pandemic has, without a doubt, hastened the trend we were already seeing towards more flexible working patterns. In theory, this should help with work-life balance. It should allow employees to work around their life rather than live around their job.
But the reality is that in many cases, it is leading to people feeling as if they must be online at all hours and respond to emails late into the night because someone else is choosing to work flexibly at that time. This is leading to rising instances of burnout – something one in four workers in the UK are currently struggling with. There is a balance to find in both making workers’ schedules flexible and predictable – but a balance can be struck with the right framework and clear guidance.
This will also impact recruitment – many workers will now not even consider a job that does not offer flexible hours or the opportunity to work from home some of the time. This must be taken into account if you wish to attract the right talent.
Creating opportunities for growth
Everyone wants to feel that they are valued by their company and that they have a clear progression pathway. A lack of growth opportunities is a key reason that talent often decides to move on, so this has a direct influence on churn rates and is all the more important with the ‘great resignation’.
This is also key at the interview stage when it comes to new talent. It is important to show a clear pathway to growth, the availability of quality training, and the offer of mentorship. Employers must foster clear, equitable pathways for career advancement. This needs to be a larger part of the strategy framework, and it is important to get regular feedback on this, if possible, on an ongoing basis, to ensure all employees feel fulfilled in this area.