“To be ‘well’ is not to live in a state of perpetual safety and calm, but to move fluidly from a state of adversity, risk, adventure, or excitement, back to safety and calm, and out again. Wellness is not a state of being, but a state of action.”
-Emily Nagoski (PhD) and Amelia Nagoski (DMA), authors of Burnout: The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle
2020 was filled with challenges. From COVID-19, extended all-remote working, and an economic crisis to racial injustice and political turmoil, employee wellbeing has become more of an issue for individuals and a priority for businesses. Many people have been fighting feelings of isolation and a lack of control, which has severely impacted mental health.
According to a recent study, 69% of workers claimed this was the most stressful time of their entire professional career, including major events like the September 11 terrorist attacks and the 2008 Great Recession. For those who have the ability to work from home, work and personal lives are more intertwined than ever. On top of that, employees may be facing illness, bereavement, family pressures, financial insecurity, childcare challenges, ongoing distractions with current events, and increasing loneliness from social isolation.
If companies want to not only survive – but learn to thrive – in these new and challenging norms, they have to focus on employee wellbeing.
HOW EMPLOYEE WELLBEING AFFECTS BUSINESS RESULTS
Businesses should care about employee wellbeing because it’s the human thing to do – and because it inevitably impacts everything from productivity to quality.
While burnout and mental health issues have been on the rise for some time, in the wake of COVID-19, they’ve now reached a critical point. According to Glint’s data insights report on employee engagement, employee burnout risk reached a two-year high in August 2020, with a 33% jump in risk measures. Why is this a problem?
1. Employee burnout can lead to absenteeism, higher turnover, & poor performance.
Not all stress is bad, but if it’s sustained over a long period of time, it often leads to burnout. Burnout is categorized by feelings of overwhelm, hopelessness, and exhaustion – and has a direct impact on engagement. Every day, 1 million workers miss work due to stress. When high performers with organizational knowledge and expertise leave a company, this creates a gap that puts pressure on everyone else in the business and can result in an inconsistent customer experience. This is especially true in the localization industry, which has a history of high staff turnover and limited opportunities for progression.
2. Effect on productivity & quality of work.
Mental illness has a significant impact on the global economy. According to the World Health Organization, depression and anxiety can lead to $1 trillion per year in lost productivity. If people are enduring ongoing levels of high stress, they aren’t going to be as engaged in their work. This has a major impact on businesses. Staff is less creative with recommendations for clients, less able to handle basic interpersonal issues, and less likely to tap into a problem-solving mindset. And according to the CDC, depression reduces cognitive performance 35% of the time. That has a knock-down effect across an organization. With work piling up, employees may feel the need to take shortcuts on quality standards, leading to poor results for clients.
ADAPTING TO AN ALL-REMOTE MODEL
We take a proactive, holistic approach to staff wellbeing to address and mitigate problems that could impact our people and our business. Wellbeing is integrated into our values and how we operate. Staff wellbeing is more than just a metric or objective to accomplish. We’ve embedded it into our business planning and strategic goals. At Wordbank, staff wellbeing is constantly evolving through our cultural norms, training and education, manager support, specific programs and initiatives, and robust feedback cycles. It all starts with our workplace culture and extends out from there.
As for everyone, this year has been a challenge for us. Like many other businesses, we were forced to quickly adapt to an all-remote model in March 2020. Taking into account the wishes of our people alongside sensible public health advice, we have not returned to our office space since then. We had to get creative in finding ways to foster connection with our people and make life better for them. And we did this while meeting the evolving needs of our clients and supporting our global resources as they adjusted.
Here are some of the ways we’ve approached that.
1. Proactive check-ins & surveys.
We’ve been regularly pulsing our people with engagement and wellbeing surveys since going fully remote. Our initial surveys showed a lot of anxiety around job security and concerns with juggling personal situations with childcare and health issues. This informed specific communication and options for flexibility that we implemented. Our September pulse-check showed an average employee wellbeing score of 6.6 out of 10. These results were not surprising given the situation, but spurred us into specific actions to help tackle some of the key stressors related to schedules, work-from-home setups, Zoom fatigue, etc. We tasked our leadership team to check in more often and make sure that we implemented changes to offer some relief.
2. Flexible schedule changes.
We’ve always offered flexible working arrangements, but those increased with stay-at-home orders. We came up with creative ways to help our working parents meet both family and business needs. And off the back of our surveys, we started to offer headspace days, where we took additional days off as a company to encourage people to take much-needed breaks. We also implemented “No Meeting Fridays” to give people space to end the week productively and calmly, while relieving meeting fatigue throughout the week.
3. Home office setup.
We carried out working-from-home assessments to determine where people had needs. This helped ensure our staff has comfortable and functional home office environments. We provided ergonomic chairs, desks, standing-desk converters, wrist wrests, monitor stands, headphones, and webcams.
4. Connection opportunities.
Connection is one of our core values, and we’ve worked hard to maintain our culture while being remote. We know that loneliness and isolation is one of the biggest causes of mental health issues for 70% of people who experience moderate to severe depression and anxiety. To combat that, we set up humor chatrooms and Yammer groups, hosted virtual parties, launched gratitude video challenges, mobilized people into community action groups, and sent out care packages. Not everything we’ve tried has been successful, but the key is that we’ve done our best to respond to the ever-evolving needs of our people, and we keep trying new things.
OUR WELLBEING RESULTS
We know we can always do more to make life better for our people. But we don’t think it’s an accident that we’ve weathered the current environment very well, all things considered.
As a certified B Corp, we know that the way we treat our people directly impacts the health of our business. Our focus on wellbeing keeps our clients and our people happy. Here’s the impact our commitment to staff wellbeing has had since we’ve been all remote.
- We’re proud to have maintained an overall 99% error-free quality rate for our clients while continuing to grow our business over last year.
- We’ve reduced staff turnover by 10%.
- Our employee net promoter score is currently at 42 (good), which is a 24% increase over a 6-month period.
- Recent customer satisfaction data indicates a customer NPS score of 68 (great).
- We saw a 5% increase in employee wellbeing rates in the last quarter of 2020.
- Feedback indicates the most positive change Wordbankers have seen in the last 6 months is increased focus and effort around wellbeing.
Here’s what a few Wordbankers had to say:
“Everyone continues to still be engaged with one another despite working remotely. The company has genuinely cared about everyone’s wellbeing. And they have done a phenomenal job with checking in/doing what they can to keep the morale high.”
“I feel like I’m not just another number at a company. Often places make sure to make you feel that you are disposable, but not at Wordbank. They do genuinely care about your wellbeing and career progress.”
Wellbeing goes beyond traditional health and wellness initiatives. It isn’t just about taking a health risk assessment or hosting mindfulness or yoga sessions. In reality, wellbeing is holistic and includes areas around physical, mental, emotional, financial, intellectual, environmental, and social health, community, and purpose. Since it’s so all encompassing, wellbeing can’t be approached with a checkbox mindset. An effective approach needs to evolve and adapt with the needs of the people in the business. It requires constant focus and small steps toward improvement.