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by Mary T. O’Sullivan, MSOL, contributing writer
“…no one can return to 2019. The pandemic unearthed too many truths and accelerated the future of work. – HR Exchange
There’s no doubt that in the post-pandemic world, the life we lived in 2019 has vanished. As a result, business leaders adjusted practices and attitudes to keep their businesses viable and their employees’ content. Forbes recently published a list of HR trends that impact both employees and their bosses in 2023.
Sustainability, world conflicts, social consciousness, and the threat of a recession are among the major workplace influences since 2020. Forbes also makes the case that many trends such as remote work and employee experience (once known as “employee engagement”) are unlikely to ever revert to pre-pandemic practices.
Workplace environment, now known as “employee experience”, emerges as a critical component for businesses. People want a workplace atmosphere that is as seamless and easy as ordering a book from Amazon. Tolerance for bureaucracy and wasting time with useless, complex systems no longer exists. People don’t want to come to work and be hassled. Many companies and organizations have already initiated new practices to make work-life balance easier.
For instance, Lockheed Martin instituted an employee concierge service (Les Concierges), where employees can buy tickets to any event, send flowers, make personal travel plans, find childcare or call a plumber. The service saves employees’ time and increases productivity. Other platforms ease the pain of preparing payroll, dealing with Human Resource issues, providing relocation services, etc. The emphasis on engaging employees became one of improving the perception of work and the company. With these employee experience services, longevity at the organization increases. Turnover problems dissolve. When you interview, ask what employee experience services are provided.
Another fascinating trend for 2023 occurs as people become more focused on finding meaning and purpose in their work. Employees now consider company culture and values as important components of the job. They want to believe in the work they do and what the company and its brand stand for. Employees can’t be content if they get up each morning and ask themselves, “what am I doing this for?” I once coached a woman who happily worked in the company’s “defensive” product line. When her job changed into working with the “offensive” line of products, she quit. The “offensive” products did not fit into her personal value system. She now works at a healthcare company, with caring and ministering to others as their mission. That company matched her personal value system far better, and she’s been there for over 10 years.
In addition to matching values, employees now want their mental health addressed at work. Too many times the stress of work causes multiple mental health issues like anxiety, depression, insomnia, and panic attacks. More than once, ambulances cart away employees with heart attack symptoms, only to discover the shortness of breath, dizziness, and heart palpitations, were actually signs of a panic attack, manifested because of work stress and burnout. The pandemic lockdown caused long hours and short handedness and blurred the lines between job and homelife. According to the World Health Organization (WHO) the resulting burnout amounted to a $1 trillion of lost productivity. Concern for employees’ well-being and mental health prompted more focus on removing the stigma by encouraging more time off and publicly promoting mental health solutions. Calm, a mental health platform, provides employees with “mental health literacy”, reducing job stress. LifeSpeak, Inc. also supplies online mental health employee support. Other mental health benefits come as part of an overall benefits package, but the main point is, people need to know the help is available and that there is no stigma attached.
In fact, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) protects employees with mental health issues as well as those with physical health problems. This Act stipulates that accommodations for the disability be instituted for the employee so that he or she can perform the job. Companies and organizations must educate all employees and their managers as to the mental health benefits offered, and not stigmatize the employee for the issue. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, “Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and other nondiscrimination laws, most employers must provide “reasonable accommodations” to qualified employees with disabilities”. As stated in the ADA Network, employers need to “Send the message across the workplace that workers with psychiatric disabilities have the same right to a respectful and effective workplace as any other worker with a disability.”
Work changed during and after the 2020 pandemic. As the years pass, and employers become more people-focused, policies and practices became different. Many companies are repurposing office space, due to hybrid or remote workers. Platforms now available can help bridge the work-life balance gap. People won’t work like they used to; their mental health is too important to them. Employees seek meaning in their work and will find a job that aligns with their personal values. It benefits employers and employees when employees’ overall well-being is addressed and honored.
People nowadays don’t resonate with Vincent Van Gogh when he said, “I put my heart and my soul into my work and have lost my mind in the process.”
“Managers need to be more intentional about how they interact with employees and how they reinforce the values of the organization through their day-to-day behaviors.” – Forbes
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Mary T. O’Sullivan, Master of Science, Organizational Leadership, International Coaching Federation Professional Certified Coach, Society of Human Resource Management, “Senior Certified Professional. Graduate Certificate in Executive and Professional Career Coaching, University of Texas at Dallas. Member, Beta Gamma Sigma, the International Honor Society. Advanced Studies in Education from Montclair University, SUNY Oswego and Syracuse University. Mary is also a certified Six Sigma Specialist, Contract Specialist, IPT Leader and holds a Certificate in Essentials of Human Resource Management from SHRM.