«We need to ensure that our best asset, and the true currency of business – people – are in spaces where they can all thrive.»
KAY SARGENT, DIRECTOR HOK’S GLOBAL WORKPLACE PRACTICE
The pandemic has changed the relationship between people and their work. Employees have questioned the role their work plays in their personal well-being, leading to waves of resignations in Europe (+20% in July 2021 versus 2019). If they want to keep employees satisfied, engaged and productive, companies have to understood that investing in their well-being is a key factor.
Employees expect their work to be fulfilling. 82% of employees ask for policies to improve the quality of life at work. They wan to be able to come to an inspiring and enjoyable workplace, while also having a balanced life. They want their employer to respect and encourage their mental and physical health. In response, companies are investing in an increasingly holistic approach to employee well-being.
A Gartner study found that 94% of companies made significant investments in their well-being programs during the pandemic: 85% increased support for mental health benefits, and 50% increased support for physical well-being.
In addition, the rise of remote work has created new physical health issues due to the lack of movement and poor workstation ergonomics. Taking care of employees’ wellbeing goes beyond the workplace.
87% of employees expect their employer to support them in balancing work and personal commitments
(Source: Forbes, 2019)
89% of workers at companies that support well-being initiatives are more likely to recommend their company as a good place to work
(Source: Forbes, 2019)
15% of workers in the UK are constantly monitoring business emails outside working hours.
(Source: Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development)
of employees were able to their usual workload completed in the new four day week.
(Source : 4 Day Week Global pilot program, 2018, worldwide)
of businesses found it easier to attract and retain talent with a four day work week. (Source : 4 Day Week Global pilot program, 2018, worldwide)
One positive aspect of the Covid crisis has been the overall increase in productivity due to a decrease in workplace-related distractions. This has led to further questions about the need to work long hours. In a survey conducted by ADECCO after the onset of Covid, 69% of employees agreed that their contracts should be based on meeting the needs of the business rather than the working hours.
The emerging ‘‘Slow Working’‘ movement focuses on quality and focus rather than speed of turnaround and multi-tasking, with time spent on doing essential work properly in a shorter time rather than maximizing time at work. Start-ups and some countries are promoting the four day week. Microsoft experimented with a four day workweek in its Japanese subsidiary in summer 2019 and found that productivity increased by 40%.
The issue that has gained the most traction in the work world is mental health. Indeed, the subject has been on the rise for several years due to the negative impact of our ultra-connected culture on mental health. In 2021, the number of people who feel burned out doubled in France has doubled (2.5 million people are now experiencing severe burnout). The “always-on” expectation has led to the creation of ‘‘the right to disconnect’’ law in 2017, which has isince been adopted by many European countries.
The mental health issue has been amplified by the pandemic. In a Malakoff Humanis study published in September 2021, 41% of respondents felt that the health crisis had a negative effect on their mental health. The crisis has also amplified conditions or situations that can have a negative impact on employees’ psychological state, such as anxiety or addictions. As a result, the subject has become central to corporate wellbeing management policies. A new position has emerged called chief mental health officer. Smartphone applications designed to help employees take care of their mental health have also been on the rise.
In 2020, funding for mental health tech companies reached nearly $1.5Bn. That’s 5.5x more than the $275M invested in 2016.
of French workers say that the pandemic had a negative impact on their mental health.
(Source : Malakoff Humanis study, 2021, FR)
OPPORTUNITIES & CHALLENGES
Regarding physical and environmental wellness, a significant gap still exists between what employees expect and what companies are offering. Most complaints are about noise, air quality, temperature, personal storage, and availability of meeting and quiet rooms.
Mental health issues have different sources, including inability to disconnect, isolation, loneliness, anxiety, or stress. Finally, employees expect their companies to take care of them at work but also when working remotely.
Leveraging the Internet of Things (IoT) for improving wellness
First, the IoT brings solutions to the workplace to measure and monitor different parameters such as acoustics, air quality, temperature and light in order to optimize well-being. For example Kandu (FR) has developed a connected tool measuring key environmental data from the workspace. Automated catering solutions allow even the smallest companies to offer access to healthy food to their employees. Regarding the workstation, smart chairs not only capture ergonomic data on people’s posture, but also deliver an easy-to- follow plan for them to achieve their activity goals.
Moreover, wearables are taking over the workplace. The global enterprise wearables market reached a value of US$ 3.17 Billion in 2021 and is expected to grow 41 % annually between 2022 and 2027. We are seeing the development of wellness programs based on connected bracelets. They can also be leveraged to improve worker safety by detecting fatigue, body temperature or danger in the surrounding area. This smart construction helmet is a good example. Finally wearable robotics can decrease health problems linked to heavy manual work. ABI Research predicts the robotic exoskeleton market alone will reach $1.8Bn in 2025, up from $68M in 2014.
Ensuring a peaceful work environment
Minimising employees’ mental health issues can take many forms. Prevention tools are available, such as Levell (UK), which provides practical tools for employees to help them prevent their own burnout, or Bluecall (Sweden, raised €1,5M), which provides anonymous mobile chat counselling for employees with mental health issues.
Bringing nature into the office is another way to reduce employees’ stress level. Cultures&cie creates organic vegetable farms on companies’ green spaces, allowing employees to garden during their breaks.
Offering nap rooms or nap pods allows people to isolate themselves and relax. Finally, meditation is also gaining traction. Companies like Mc Kinsey and Google offer meditation classes to their employees. Meditation apps are exploding: in 2019 the top 10 highest-grossing meditation apps generated $195M in revenues: a 52% year on year increase.