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There’s no I in Wellness: Why employee wellbeing is essential to workplace teamwork and efficiency.

By Elah | 07.10.2021

In a new post-pandemic reality, mental health is being prioritized over “hustle culture”. Read on to learn more about how it pays off for both employers and employees.

It’s nearly 2022, but we’re still processing 2020. Is it just us?

The pandemic brought many changes to daily life, one of the most notable ones being the workplace. When the world came to a halt and lockdown had everyone working from home, it brought to the surface many of the feelings employees have been feeling for years: extreme stress, anxiety, and the dreaded burnout (a term the WHO named a medical condition in 2019). The “pause button” on daily life gave people space and time to reevaluate the prevalent “hustle culture.” With a timeout and focus on personal and collective health, people suddenly started asking themselves: is burnout worth it? Am I satisfied at work? Am I appreciated? These existential questions, coupled with being cooped up in apartments (sometimes with others), highlighted the importance of mental health in particular. In the face of the unknown, a confident mental state was a form of protection.

Post-pandemic, mental health, and wellness at the workplace became top of mind for both employees and employers. In 2021, even Wall Street banks, notorious for 100+ hour work weeks, are implementing wellness days. Citibank and Goldman Sachs are offering their employees mental health days, something that may come as a surprise to those who picture scenes from ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’ whenever they think of the financial offices. But, in this new wellness-focused era, corporate culture is no exception.

As for the tech workplace – employee wellness has long been prioritized. Google’s famed chef meals and massage credits served as a lead for other companies trying to attract top talent. However, there are some that argue these “Google-esque” perks were incentives to keep employees at work longer and therefore working longer hours instead of truly being about wellness and happiness.

Today, even in tech, the meaning of ‘employee wellness’ has switched from gimmicky office snacks or basketball hoops to real offline, out-of-office downtime. In 2021, companies such as LinkedIn, Hootsuite, and Bumble gave their employees an offline paid week off to “improve morale, mental health and decrease the chance of burnout. The priorities have shifted from a ‘rise and grind’ culture to one that supports mental health, paid time off (PTO), and disconnecting to reconnect.

Apart from employee wellness becoming standard practice in the post-covid world, there are many benefits to prioritizing well-being at the office (or home office, if working in a hybrid model). If you’re an employer, here are a few reasons to invest in employee wellness:

Well-being increases productivity and performance.

A happy mind is a more productive one. Alternately, the feelings of stress and anxiety can lead to a decrease in the ability to focus. Not getting enough sleep may also make it easier to drift into a daydream rather than focus on the task at hand. This leads to ‘absenteeism’, meaning being at work but not necessarily working.

It creates a sense of belonging and inclusion.

If almost two years of social distancing has taught us anything, it’s the importance of feeling connected and a part of something greater than ourselves. Employee belonging and inclusion provides a sense of togetherness that increases teamwork and creativity beyond sending each other memes on the Slack channel.

Employee retention.

In July 2021 alone, 4 million Americans quit their jobs in what is being called the “Great Resignation.” People previously employed have moved on to turn their side hustles and pandemic hobbies into businesses, leaving a talent void in their wake. By introducing a holistic approach to wellness, companies have a higher chance of retaining employees.

Brand positioning.

The way a company implements and strategizes a wellness program for its employees is a direct extension of its brand story and values. Companies making headlines (and attracting resume applications along the way) are those that approach wellness from an authentic, genuine place to boost morale, productivity, and of course, well-being.

Bottom line.

Practicing mindfulness and providing mental health services to employees not only improves the quality of life both in and out of the office but is cost-effective for companies too. The ill-famed “hustle culture” that celebrates working overtime and not taking time off leads to unused paid time off that becomes a liability on an employer’s balance sheet. Prioritizing wellness also promotes healthier living and habits, reducing the chances of having higher costs associated with chronic illnesses down the line. In contrast, burnout is estimated to cost $125 to $190 billion a year in healthcare spending.

Employees are demanding a more sustainable approach and tools for approaching mental health and well-being at the workplace. As a response, models such as the “four-day workweek” are being implemented by companies like Bolt, and other companies are testing models that include a day off a month. With these initiatives, wellness is no longer considered employment “perk” but essential for companies of all sizes.

What’s more, well-being today is accessible with apps like TalkSpace, BetterHelp, Calm, Headspace, and Reflect, making it cost-effective for companies to offer their employees these benefits. With all the resources available and consumer demand, putting the “we” in wellness is easier than ever.