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The reasons behind the Great Resignation have been discussed at length over the past several months, as the pandemic continues to redefine how and where we work, what we need from our employers, and what we value as employees.
Stress and burnout were already extremely high before anyone had heard of COVID-19, and the pandemic became a tipping point for changes that already needed to happen. As entire industries were disrupted and organizations were suddenly distributed, employees had the opportunity to reflect on their values and priorities, and reevaluate what’s important to them. Data shows that mental health significantly impacts the working experience, and 91% of surveyed employees believe a prospective company’s culture should support mental health. Wellbeing in the workplace drives engagement and productivity, and has become critical in the war for talent.
During our recent webinar, panelists delivered strategies you can begin using today to improve mental wellness in the workplace, enhance employee satisfaction and engagement, and attract and retain talent. Here are a few of the key takeaways.
What’s driving the Great Resignation?
According to Mary Marzec, Ph.D, Senior Scientist and Scientific Advisory Board Member at The Virgin Pulse Institute, people are leaving their jobs because there’s something about their role that significantly detracts from their health and wellbeing. Stability, personal growth, mission, and support for employee mental health are the new competitive advantages. A recent study found that toxic culture is also one of the primary drivers, and resignation rates are not equal across all companies. In fact, they range from 2% to more than 30%.
This exposes an opportunity for leaders to listen carefully to their people and then create a mentally healthy culture based on their evolving needs, values, and priorities.
Listening to employees giving their perspectives is at the crux of retaining [them]. This is one of the things employers can do to mitigate the Great Resignation
Strategies to improve mental wellness and attract top talent
Every workplace is unique, and the strategies that will help improve your employees’ wellbeing will be unique as well. Dr. Marzec recommends equipping your managers with a mental health toolkit, which could include training like a Mental Health First Aid virtual course. At OpenTable and KAYAK, what’s been extremely effective is giving employees permission to work in the way that’s best for them. They’ve introduced no meeting Fridays, to give people time to catch up or end their week a little early, and shut down the company for two weeks to give employees the break they said they needed.
In January, as they began thinking about employees coming back to the office, they suggested a hybrid way of working. Their employees conveyed that they wanted to be in charge of where and how they work, so they changed their policy to work from anywhere. “This shows that we trust our employees,” says Sophie Gelsthorpe, their VP of People and Culture. “We can no longer say that working from home impacts productivity because we’ve done it for two years, and it works.” Libby Erensen, VP of People at Spring Health knows from research that flexibility is linked to having a mentally healthy workforce. “The more autonomy and flexibility you can give people, the better they feel and the more ownership they have, along with the ability to manage their own life and responsibilities.”
Creating a culture of vulnerability and authenticity
A culture that allows people to be vulnerable becomes a workplace that is safe, sustainable, and attractive to employees. It empowers them to be their authentic selves and feel supported at work. More people are craving community at work because COVID has made this more difficult. Aligning your company to their values and life choices has never been more important. This can be achieved through employee resource groups, getting together for social activities—virtually or in person when that’s safe—and prioritizing your DEI initiatives.
Your culture is your company’s biggest differentiator, especially since you can’t always compete on pay,” says Dr. Marzec. “Think about your employees having a meaningful life, not just a meaningful job.
Looking ahead to the future of work
The COVID-19 pandemic has permanently changed how and where we work, and it sped up something that was already happening in the work world. We’ve proven that we can be productive at home, and this has shifted the dynamic between employees and employers—companies are now expected to be more flexible and adaptable. Taking care of your employees is a permanent commitment that will be ever changing, long after the end of the Great Resignation, making it critical to continually listen to your employees. And with all the disruption over the past two years, it’s just as important to communicate any upcoming changes. Creating a culture of community in a hybrid/remote workforce will be the challenge of 2022. It’s time to look at and potentially revise our policies, processes, and programs, and rethink onboarding programs, how to make remote events inclusive, how you communicate, how often, and what you say.
Watch the webinar on demand to learn more about how to develop a mentally healthy work environment that attracts and retains top talent.