As COVID has slowly made its retreat, we have all breathed a cautious sigh of relief. On the one hand, the most stringent demands the pandemic enforced on employers are starting to ease up. Still, there’s one area I recommend staying up-to-date on as an employer: employee care.
What do I mean by that? I’m talking about areas that have always been important, but have come further into the limelight in the past two years. Things like employee mental health and well-being, work-life balance, advancement and compensation, and even work environment.
During the pandemic, short-term routine changes resulted in permanent priority and lifestyle shifts. As families spent more time together, many began to rethink what work-life balance meant to them. Time spent working remotely showed them the value in investing more time with loved ones. And on the other side of the coin, loneliness increased for many, while the boundary between work and home thinned. Many parents and family caretakers became dependent on the availability that remote work offered, and they also began facing more burnout.
Increasingly, HR professionals are starting to feel worn out from the demands the pandemic has created. It’s natural to want to ease the hectic pace and embrace a more sustainable approach, but creating policies that go out of their way to care for the workforce ultimately benefits everyone. It reduces turnover and improves job satisfaction. (And don’t forget—we are employees too, so worthwhile changes also stand to benefit us.)
What are some key areas of employee care we can focus on?
Ask any employee who recently got a raise to account for inflation. There are plenty of running jokes online about the rate of inflation turning raises into pay cuts. Whether that mathematically holds in all cases, it is true that raises don’t go as far as they used to. And employees are feeling the sting—even in higher income brackets.
So are employers. Data suggests that pay is a top reason many employees are leaving their jobs. Resignations are often due to better opportunities these days, meaning employers who want to slow turnover rates may need to upgrade pay scales. It may hurt to think of increasing pay rates, but doing so doesn’t just get you a Best Boss Ever mug. It is actually a wise investment that can materially impact turnover.
It isn’t just about doling out raises, either, but about setting up a reliable and fair system for pay rate increases. When employees know their hard work is tangibly rewarded, it’s natural for them to contribute better quality work. And it’s easier, too, for them to see their employment with your company as a long-term career rather than a passing job.
When you think of benefits, things like insurance and a 401k may first come to mind. But more and more employers are shifting to a holistic approach; seeking to care for the whole employee.
One surprising option I’ve seen companies utilize is partially-paid sabbaticals for employees who have been with the company for some length of time. More accessible options include spontaneous days off, increased leave for families and caretakers, and complimentary mental health resources.
Benefits can extend to employees’ personal and career development, too. Employees that feel stagnant or even bored are more likely to leave. Offer things like tuition reimbursement and elective skills training to encourage engagement and skillset ownership.
And finally, ensure that these benefits don’t come off as empty gestures by offering employees an interactive career plan. This allows employees to feel more in control of their advancement, and it helps them envision a future with your company.
Flexible Working Arrangements
Many businesses are still hoping for a return to pre-pandemic office work. After all, wasn’t the massive shift to remote work a bit of a forced change? It seems natural to assume that after the lockdowns have lifted, life should return to its old familiar shape. But the reality is that people still vastly prefer remote or flexible work to traditional office jobs, consistently citing better productivity and work-life balance.
Even if you can’t offer all-remote work, there are other types of flexibility that can be offered. Options range from hybrid work and coworking spaces to flexible working hours accommodating those that need it. Offering as much flexibility as reasonably possible actively supports your employees in a healthier lifestyle. This fosters a healthier work environment, which many are quitting in hopes of finding, giving your business a competitive advantage in the hiring market.
For many businesses looking to operate remotely or in a hybrid fashion, keeping the office connected creates concern. However, employees don’t necessarily need to physically work together for productivity to occur. In conversations with my clients, departmental automation has proven to be a key component in keeping the office running in a remote fashion. Using automation tools helps ensure employees have the functionality they need without the traditional office setting.
Finally, it’s so important to respect our employees’ personal time. As leaders, we can do a lot to encourage a clear divide between work and home life. By doing so, we help offset some of the blurred lines that are currently challenging remote workers.
Invest in Your Employees
In short, when you invest in your employees, they invest in you. When we see employees as mere resources, we tend to lose them. But if we’ve learned anything over the past two years, it’s that the employees we invest in as people, from personal well-being to career advancement, are able to thrive and meet new levels of productivity. And, what’s better, they may actually want to stay.
About the Author
Since the company’s inception, Steve Wilson has dedicated his time at OnTask to making workflow automation simple and accessible for businesses of all sizes. Steve also serves as Head of Product Development, working with the team on new updates to continue improving the product. In his spare time, you can find Steve coaching youth basketball for his two sons or saltwater fishing.