A Multibillion-Dollar Problem That Outsourcing Solves: Workplace Well-Being
Workforce well-being has taken the centre stage when the COVID-19 pandemic began, and companies are looking at HR business process outsourcing to help them create better work environments.
Creating a workplace structurally designed to eliminate stigma on mental health problems, offer support for people who need help, and proactively build an environment where everyone feels open to talking about their personal struggles could be key to addressing costly productivity issues faced by businesses around the world.
In the United States alone, job-induced depression accounts for 200 million lost workdays each year, costing businesses at least $17 billion, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The same amount goes for Australia, where job-related psychological distress, like depression and anxiety, consumes an average of 10 to 12 workdays for every person.
The pandemic even aggravated the situation, with reports of mental health issues in the US rising to 40% in 2020 from just 10% in 2019. The crisis brought feelings of isolation, grief, fear, and many other triggers to existing mental health conditions. Worse, access to mental health services has become more difficult in some regions where medical facilities are full.
While COVID-19 worsened work-induced mental health problems, a bigger problem is stigma. “Stigma kills more people than cigarettes, than heroin, than any other risk factor. Because it keeps people in the shadows, it keeps people from asking for help, it keeps good people from being willing to offer help,” said former US Surgeon General Jerome Adams, MD, told McKinsey.
The doctor, however, still sees a silver lining. With COVID-19 mainstreaming conversations about the need for better workplaces, he believes this is a huge opportunity for businesses to give their current structures a long, hard look and do the necessary changes to improve not only their offices but also the way they treat their people.
“The reality is that as someone who is running an organisation, you are going to be just as likely, if not more likely, to encounter problems with mental health and wellness issues as people come back into the workplace as you are to encounter problems with COVID-19. That’s just a fact, so you should be thinking proactively about it,” he said.
What a better workplace looks like
Rethinking the workplace with the people’s well-being as a priority is easier said than done. It needs a thorough check on every aspect of the business such as compensation and benefits packages, access to healthcare services, work-life balance, communication pathways, employee feedback, managerial support, and incident reporting systems, among others.
Competitive salary rates and benefits take away the employees’ financial woes, which often becomes a root source of anxiety, especially during this pandemic. Taking workplace well-being seriously may also include providing access to healthcare services, like psychiatric and psychological consultations.
A cost-effective way to boost employee morale is having engagement activities. Fitness classes, sports events, yoga and meditation, weekly contests, and office-wide celebrations can help ease workplace stress and strengthen the bond between people. Providing different avenues for employees to be connected is crucial to uplift everyone’s spirit and improve the overall workplace well-being.
There is also value in fostering a culture of gratitude, recognition, and affirmation in the workplace, veering away from the traditional punishment-oriented approach to work efficiency. Organisations can show how much they value hard work by giving incentives, rewarding employees, and even allowing “sanity breaks” after a tough work week.
Companies must also train their managers in how to recognise signs of psychological distress and how to properly respond. For the employees, managers are the face of the organisation, and how they handle well-being amongst their teams will ultimately reflect the company’s approach to building a better workplace.
Additionally, organisations can also train mental health champions and form a group of employees that can listen to fellow employees who may have been experiencing psychological distress but are hesitant in talking to their managers. These champions can also initiate company-wide conversations about mental health to raise awareness and eliminate stigma.
Outsourcing HR functions for better workplaces
There are a lot of ways organisations can build a better workplace but doing so may consume valuable time and resources for any company that is already struggling to keep pace with doing business during the pandemic. Some small businesses are even clueless about where to start with the changes due to a lack of expertise and experience.
HR outsourcing partners can help in processes like culture and transformation management, coaching and professional development, employee benefits and compensation management, and more. They can also facilitate training with registered psychologists and psychometricians that are crucial in improving workplace well-being.
Businesses can also access a wealth of knowledge in psychological health and counselling networks with the right partner. Experienced HR outsourcing providers are always updated on relevant research and data that will help an organisation implement structurally sound solutions to their problems with workplace well-being.
Ultimately, one must realise that sustaining workplace well-being is more than just a matter of tweaking HR services – it’s all about fostering an inclusive and caring culture. Making the workplace a space safe for everyone takes the effort of every single department. It is a holistic approach, not piecemeal changes, that will make an impact across the workforce.