Don’t forget employee well-being when you return to the office

Our two-year experiment of reshaping the way we work seems to be entering a final stage, hinting at a more consistent path forward for employers and employees alike. 

The New York Times had such an incredible headline this month: “Say Hello Again to the Office, Fingers Crossed.” They went on to say how plans to reopen offices “are real this time.”

Mask mandates recently lifted in Los Angeles and New York City, school districts across the country are allowing kids and teachers to remove their masks and companies like Apple, Google, and Citigroup are planning for employees to be back in the office part of the time beginning this spring. Even President Biden encouraged all Americans to turn the page on this chapter of the pandemic by returning to the office.   

But wait. We can’t forget what we’ve learned these last two years—especially about employee well-being and diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEIB).   

Employee Well-Being As You Return to the Office

We’ve made some strides in building awareness and appreciation for employee well-being. Inspire HR Total Rewards Expert Lauren Winans shared on “Redesigning the Future of Work,” that since the pandemic began, employers have been taking steps to better support their employees, including: building more diverse networks of mental health providers their employees can seek services from; offering financial planning services; reimbursing or providing a subsidy for caregivers; and creating flexible time-management systems. 

And in this same session, Matt Kudish, Executive Director at National Alliance on Mental Illness of New York City talked about how leaders were creating more space in their one-on-ones to check-in, leading group meetings with well-being status checks where everyone could rank their mood from 1-10, and overall being more engaged in their employees’ well-being. 

In addition to keeping these human-centered commitments as we approach the next phase of work, wellness app Calm shares 6 ways companies can consider employee well-being as they bring people back to the office:

  1. Managing the long-term effects of Covid-19 on mental health
  2. Supporting employees in their self-care
  3. Returning a sense of control to people
  4. Planning work schedules with a people-first approach
  5. Paying extra attention to well-being
  6. Offering an avenue to ask for help

Helping to foster a smooth transition and retain a focus on employee well-being will help boost retention and recruitment efforts, too. More than 60% of employees surveyed by Paychex report that employee well-being support is a top priority when seeking a new position.  

Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging (DEIB) in the Next Phase of Work

Farida Habib, Ph.D, Senior Strategist at Brilliant Ink recently shared 2022 Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Progress Report and Trend Alert that offers eye-opening insights around where we are now and what comes next for diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging, including:

Brilliant Ink’s 2022 Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Progress Report and Trend Alert
  • 5 takeaways on the state of DEI
  • 5 ways companies responded in 2021
  • 5 ways companies should respond in 2022

In this must-read post where Farida analyzes Culture Amp’s 2022 Workplace DEI Report, she asserts.

“2020 was a year of reckoning – and companies really did wake up. When HR and DEI practitioners were asked whether they believe their organizations are building a diverse and inclusive culture, 85% of respondents agreed. Even more meaningfully, 71% of HR and DEI practitioners agreed that their organizations are doing more than just the bare minimum required for compliance by auditing promotion processes and supporting ERGs, for example.”

I encourage you to read these tips on how companies can advance DEIB moving forward to keep inclusion efforts a tip priority, especially as return-to-office discussions are again dominating the c-suite.