Employee wellbeing is essential, wherever your people are working

Supporting employee wellbeing can be done across the hybrid workspace

Traditionally, companies have focused predominantly on promoting personal wellbeing in the office environment, but few have thought about wellbeing from anywhere. We know that wellbeing is an essential part of improving human performance, as it has massive impacts on attracting and retaining the best workforce. Anyone involved in hiring and retaining talent knows that people’s preferences and expectations about how and where they work has been undergoing major changes for years. The world began embracing a more fluid, hybrid work ecosystem well before the impacts of COVID. COVID has merely accelerated these trends and shifted all our priorities – especially when it comes to wellbeing. 

Successful organizations have been preparing to meet employee needs with flexible workplace policies and support services that will maintain collaboration, innovation, and performance – no matter where or when employees work. Of course, COVID has certainly placed an even greater focus on working from home, but it’s also become clear how valuable the office is for innovation and collaboration. As we rethink how and where people are working, and what different spaces are utilized for, we need to rethink how we support wellbeing in this more fluid, hybrid work world - today and into a post-COVID world. It’s no simple task.

With the forced mass work-from home experiment, employees have shown that if properly supported they’re able to work remotely and efficiently without significant loss in performance when necessary, but there is still a strong desire to return to the collaborative office space. They’ve also demonstrated their loyal engagement and commitment in these highly challenging times. In return, they’re voicing new concerns and expectations that employers should not ignore. COVID has increased everyone’s focus on health and well-being in all its forms. Increasingly, workers will be looking for services and benefits that address these concerns. We think that this new, more holistic mindset about wellbeing is here to stay – what we call “the next normal”. As these shifts take hold, employee wellbeing is not only becoming more important than ever before, it’s manifesting itself in new, more expansive ways.

At JLL, we’ve always looked at employee wellbeing through three lenses; physical, mental, and social. As I mentioned earlier, in the world of COVID there’s a reprioritization; a new kind of relationship and interdependence between each of these aspects of health. For example, working at home can increase tendencies to be more sedentary, which obviously impacts physical health. Issues related to work/life balance take on a new set of considerations. Today, in many cases it’s a matter of clearing space and time for work in the midst of the rest of your life, rather than the reverse in previous conditions. And as working from home has diminished opportunities for socialization, we need to think more creatively about ways to re-introduce those important human connections throughout the workday. We also know that being more socially isolated can have negative impacts on mental health as well. Balance has always been important to overall wellbeing, but how we maintain balance has changed.

Of course, physical wellbeing is foundational. It’s important to assure your employees can maintain their physical health, and now is a good time to start thinking outside the box. Things like wellness workshops & digital resources, home ergonomic assessments, home office furniture, physical activity & fitness programs, and nutritional resources can all be deployed digitally to support the home office environment. There are also a number of tools that can help maintain cognitive function, such as wearables and air quality monitors, sleep guides and strategies, to name a few. 

In this new world of “pandemic management”, the importance of supporting mental and emotional wellbeing has only grown. COVID-19 has amplified many common life stressors that take a toll on workforce mental health. In my work with clients, it’s apparent that these issues that have always impacted human wellbeing – perhaps a bit more below the surface – are now more evident and more demanding of our attention. For example, a recent JLL study shows that 51% of employees are concerned about the future and worried about losing their job. We need to be cognizant about these kinds of issues and thoughtful about ways to address them – wherever and whenever our people are doing their work.

We’re also exploring ways to take what we’ve learned about delivering valuable experiences related to wellbeing in the office and bring that to home working environments; with small, but important things like mindful break resources, or more complex and equally valuable experiences such as work/life balance amenities, philanthropic and community initiatives, and cultural experiences. Just for starters. 

The office will always be an indispensable part of the work ecosystem. It will continue to be essential in maintaining and building organizational culture. Different types of businesses will need to find the balance of tethered vs. hybrid work models that work for them. It’s also important to think about ways to make returning to the office something your employees will embrace with confidence, comfort and enthusiasm. That will require rethinking how we design collaborative, shared spaces in ways that assure employees of their physical health and safety, which also impacts mental wellbeing. 

As with any important initiative, it’s critical to start by refreshing your understanding of what matters most to your employees. How well do you know what is important to your people? Once you have a clearer, more current picture of that, you can begin to assess criteria and parameters for developing your wellbeing programs, not the least of which is who pays for what. Understanding the larger framing of what people want and need is essential to planning programs that deliver the desired benefits and support your overall organizational strategies and goals.

JLL has always believed we have a responsibility to help our clients support their employees’ wellbeing within the built working environment. We’re eager to help you bring that same support to today’s fluid, hybrid work environment. Tell us what you’ve learned about what your employees want and need to be happy and productive in the today’s new work world? What’s been the most challenging aspect of supporting your people’s wellbeing?