Since the beginning of the pandemic, workplaces have been turned upside down. From working remotely during the height of the crisis to struggling to attract and retain employees post-pandemic, businesses big and small have been experimenting with a variety of new workplace policies with varying rates of success.
Part of the problem is that many CEOs are afraid to take the necessary risks to truly create a happier, more productive workplace. As a result, many workplace wellbeing efforts are ineffective from the start.
Laura Putnam, a workplace wellbeing expert, international public speaker, and author of Workplace Wellness That Works, has worked with more than 200 organizations and 15,000 CEOs and managers to implement workplace wellbeing strategies. She boils down what CEOS are getting wrong about the future of work to four main issues:
1. Failure to uncover and address root causes. If CEOs and managers want to meaningfully enhance employee wellbeing, the first step is to identify root causes. Too often, the wrong problem is being solved. For example, rising rates of burnout are usually seen as an individual capacity or mindset issue. In response, companies typically serve up solutions for the individual, But these offerings do nothing to address the real drivers of burnout, which are often more systemic things like work overload or having to contend with a toxic boss.
2. CEOs believe their run-of-the-mill employee benefits programs are sufficient. Study after study shows many employee wellness programs fall short of helping. A study by RAND Health found that 80 percent of eligible employees opt out of their company wellness programs. Instead of check-the-box solutions, CEOs need to be willing to not only do the work, digging into the systems that might be driving low levels of employee wellbeing, but also be willing to experiment to try out new ideas, rather than clinging to old ones (that aren’t working).
3. Wellbeing is still seen as an individual responsibility, rather than a collective responsibility. For decades, businesses believed their employees’ wellbeing was an individual responsibility and placed the onus on the individual to seek help rather than looking at the larger systemic and environmental factors at play. Walking challenges, mindfulness programs, or on-site yoga are no match against a toxic workplace or boss.
4. Managers are underutilized. Managers who are encouraged and are provided the training to incorporate wellbeing into their leadership styles can positively impact the team they lead. When managers speak openly about their own personal challenges and visibly engage with their wellbeing, they play a critical role in cultivating a safe, caring, and healthy workplace environment.