How do you ensure wellbeing is at the core of workforce resilience?

Authors

Pamela Spence

EY Global Health Sciences and Wellness Industry Leader and Life Sciences Industry Leader

Ambassador for outcomes-based performance and healthy aging. Advocate for women.

Liz Fealy

EY Global and EY Americas PAS Solutions Leader, EY Global PAS Workforce Advisory Leader

Passionate about solving clients’ organization and people issues through innovative Future of Work Solutions and leveraging EY’s proprietary digital accelerators. Employment and labor attorney.

3 minute read 29 May 2020
Related topics COVID-19 Life Sciences

Companies must protect their workforce’s physical and mental health during the health crisis.

This article is part of a series about COVID-19 enterprise resilience.

According to researchers, health behaviors play a significantly larger role in health outcomes than access to, and quality of, care. As employers focus on strengthening workforce resilience and supporting a safe physical return to workplaces, they cannot overlook their part in influencing health behaviors and related health outcomes.

Adapting operations

Returning to a physical workplace is now a priority for many organizations. It’s critical this is done with a clear focus on safety, using technology and human-centered changes to policies and processes to help employees stay safe and feel valued.

  • Listen to employee concerns and use data to respond quickly and appropriately. Organizations need to adopt and implement new human-centered policies, personalized to employees’ needs, to support physical health and wellness. To create these policies, leadership must make use of data and technology to assess risk, while also staying connected with workers’ evolving concerns.

  • Address employee mental health using technology to provide needed assistance. Mental health was already a pressing workplace issue. Competing home and work demands, new health risks and feelings of loss linked to COVID-19 have increased workers’ stress. Employers can help by reducing the stigma of employee assistance programs, peer support and vetted solutions, such as chatbots and digital therapeutics. They might want to offer incentives too: one leading technology company, for instance, now offers employees discounts on mindfulness apps.

  • Design change programs and related policies to support shifts in work arrangements and travel. With waves of COVID-19 outbreaks anticipated, adapting the work environment to limit viral spread is essential. Regular virus testing, coupled with reconfigured offices and the use of personal protective equipment, will give workers the confidence to return to the physical office. Guidelines must be flexible enough to account for local variations in the virus’ spread and workers’ individual needs. Workers with health concerns or caring for loved ones in a high-risk category require additional flexibility. 

Building resilience

As we move further into the next phase of the recovery period, employers will need to consider how to ensure the ongoing wellbeing of the workforce. Building long-term resilience will require a proactive strategy that continues to protect and support employees while considering how to make bigger transformations that create long-term value.

1. Adopt an integrated suite of technology solutions to monitor and enable workforce health and safety

Employers can use technology to build trust with their employees. One car manufacturer is using wearables that vibrate when workers come within six feet of each other, as well as thermal-imaging scanning to detect fevers. Such tools make workers feel safer, supporting a new social contract with employers. AI-based tools that monitor social distancing in real time create additional trust. Ideally a platform rather than a single app is desired, so that workers have a complete picture of the safety of their environment.

Employee health

44.4%

of people now working from home say their mental health has declined since COVID-19. (Source: Qualtrics survey, March/April 2020)

2. Reinforce listening channels to determine what issues workers face, including bias/discrimination

As part of the social contract, employers must foster a sense of belonging and inclusion among employees whether they return to the physical office or not. By listening to workers’ concerns and analyzing the information in aggregate, companies can rapidly identify solutions to current or emerging concerns.

3. Review your digital transformation strategy and adapt it to include digital tools that can be adopted now to support your workforce

In addition to safeguarding employee wellbeing, business leaders must also begin planning wider business transformations. A humans-at-center approach that promotes workers’ health and safety will be critical for long-term value creation. Employers that invest in solutions to maintain their workers’ health and wellbeing will be the most likely to retain their most productive staffers.

The health and wellness of an organization’s workforce must be table-stakes. The actions organizations take (or fail to take) now will determine their resiliency beyond the COVID-19 pandemic. Listening to employees’ physical and mental health concerns and responding with inclusive solutions will pay longer-term dividends.

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Summary

Human behavior is a critical factor in health outcomes. As employers plan to protect and support their teams through a prolonged economic recovery from COVID-19, they must consider how smart use of technology, data and human-centered policy changes can positively influence employee health and wellbeing and build a more resilient workforce. 

About this article

Authors

Pamela Spence

EY Global Health Sciences and Wellness Industry Leader and Life Sciences Industry Leader

Ambassador for outcomes-based performance and healthy aging. Advocate for women.

Liz Fealy

EY Global and EY Americas PAS Solutions Leader, EY Global PAS Workforce Advisory Leader

Passionate about solving clients’ organization and people issues through innovative Future of Work Solutions and leveraging EY’s proprietary digital accelerators. Employment and labor attorney.

Related topics COVID-19 Life Sciences