Take Care of Your People, and They'll Take Care of Business

Leaders have guided their companies through rough waters before, but those experiences likely pale in comparison to the COVID-19 crisis.
Some have called this time a "new normal," but considering the pace of change, the term "new normal" might be more apt. In addition, leaders must keep their eyes on the horizon and be mindful of the "next to normal" as well. Leaders are working feverishly to manage issues like revenue and expenses -- but there's another critical need in this "next to normal" that leaders must invest in to protect their organization's long-term survival: employees' wellbeing.
It's little surprise that employee wellbeing is eroding amid the pandemic. In fact, Gallup Panel data show that, during the first week of April, 60% of Americans report significant stress, and 60% report significant worry -- and that life ratings in the U.S. have plummeted to a 12-year low.
Wellbeing is about much more than physical wellness or happiness. Gallup research has established that high wellbeing equates to a life well-lived across five critical elements: career, social, physical, financial, and community wellbeing.
This reality has critical implications for leaders because employees with thriving wellbeing are more engaged and resilient. Gallup research shows that employees thriving in all five elements are:
  • more than twice as likely to say they adapt well to change
  • 81% less likely to seek out a new employer in the next year
  • 41% less likely to miss work due to poor health
  • 36% more likely to recover fully after illness, injury or hardship
  • 27% less likely to have changed jobs in the previous 12 months
Graphic displaying the 5 elements of wellbeing as Gallup defines them. The definitions are placed around a circle in the center of the graphic that represents how these five elements interconnect to result in a person's overall wellbeing. Career wellbeing is liking what you do each day and being motivated to achieve your goals. Social wellbeing is having supportive relationships and love in your life. Financial wellbeing is managing your economic life to reduce stress and increase security. Community wellbeing is liking where you live, feeling safe, and having pride in your community. Physical wellbeing is having good health and enough energy to get things done daily.
By taking simple actions to cultivate employees' wellbeing, leaders can improve their engagement, the employee experience, and overall performance during this "next to normal" -- and in the long-term. Consider the following actions related to the five elements of wellbeing.

Career wellbeing: Liking what you do each day and being motivated to achieve your goals.

In uncertain times, many employees feel uneasy about the future and their jobs. What they need right now are clear expectations and consistent updates from leaders who demonstrate that they care.
Leaders should communicate transparently, authentically, and frequently -- and check in regularly with employees to ask what they need. Leaders can deepen engagement and instill hope by simply communicating their commitment to actively support employees.

Social wellbeing: Do you have supportive relationships and love in your life?

In a time of social distancing, it's little surprise that many employees are struggling with feelings of isolation.
Leaders should encourage managers to prioritize social connections with their teams, whether that's a virtual happy hour, increased team recognition, a "good news" channel on Teams or small talk at the start of meetings. Even digitized social connections can remind employees that their manager and team members care and have their back.
Ultimately, employees who have a best friend at work are 50% more likely to say they have the opportunity to do what they do best every day and 80% more likely to feel like their opinions count at work.

Financial wellbeing: Managing your economic life to reduce stress and increase security.

Financial wellbeing is about more than financial health; rather, it reflects a person's emotional relationship with their money and how it contributes to their life experience.
By pausing and focusing on these basics, leaders can strengthen employee wellbeing -- and, in turn, cultivate resilience and engagement for the future.
To protect employees' financial wellbeing, leaders should be sensitive, yet direct and transparent, about their organization's economic landscape. Leaders can serve as caring coaches by asking managers and employees about their financial concerns and by providing relevant opportunities and resources.
For example, leaders could provide financial education opportunities or relay information regarding benefits such as the CARES Act.

Physical wellbeing: Having good health and enough energy to get things done daily.

Physical wellbeing is particularly important in the midst of a global health crisis. Gyms might be closed, but remote workers can still achieve thriving physical wellbeing.
To help their people stay well and healthy, leaders should provide relevant physical wellbeing resources and encourage employees to promote their physical wellbeing.
For example, leaders can recommend taking periodic breaks from the computer or going outside for a walk. On an ongoing basis, leaders should support a culture of physical wellbeing with strong wellness initiatives.

Community wellbeing: Liking where you live, feeling safe and having pride in your community.

Amid challenging times, people tend to come together and contribute to the greater good of their families and communities. This includes the communities in which people work.
Leaders should model positive community wellbeing by consistently giving back to the community and sharing community wellbeing opportunities with their employees. For example, leaders can connect employees with an opportunity to support a local charity in need.
Leaders should also live their company's mission and values -- and help employees see how their work and community support benefits others and furthers the company's mission.
As organizations struggle to survive, leaders can position their people for success by addressing the seemingly simple employee needs that have an enormous effect on performance -- things like having a manager who provides opportunities for career growth and enjoying thriving relationships at work and in life.
By pausing and focusing on these basics, leaders can strengthen employee wellbeing -- and, in turn, cultivate resilience and engagement for the future. Consider William Bridges' quote: "All transitions begin with an ending and end with a beginning."
    Robert Gabsa is a Workplace Consultant at Gallup.
    Shruti Rastogi is a Senior Consultant at Gallup.
    Bailey Nelson contributed to this article.
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