Supporting employee wellbeing has never been more important

More than two years after the onset of Covid-19, businesses and their people are facing a new set of challenges. From economic instability to political unrest and the cost of living crisis, there’s a lot to be uncomfortable about.

For business leaders, the impact of these concerns on the well-being of their employees should be significant. Why; Because happier, healthier teams create more successful businesses.

According to Oxford University’s Said Business School, happiness has a clear effect on productivity. Their research showed that employees who rated themselves as “happier” not only worked faster and talked to more customers, but made 13% more sales.

As Chief Commercial Officer at IWG, I am a passionate advocate of the hybrid model. It is a powerful agent of positive change, both for companies and the people who work for them – and should be at the heart of today’s executive well-being discussions.

Moving: bad for people, bad for business

In the new, post-pandemic world of work, people’s priorities have changed. There is a greater emphasis on mental, physical and emotional health and the expectation that work should fit life rather than the other way around.

Long periods of forced telecommuting have proven that productivity can be maintained—in some cases, even improved—by giving workers the autonomy and independence to choose where, how and even when they work.

Having benefited from the extra time to spend with loved ones, pursue hobbies or pursue fitness goals, it’s no surprise that people don’t want to trade it for a return to daily train journeys or traffic jams . IWG research shows that nearly half of workers would quit their jobs if asked to return to the office five days a week, and only one in five are now prepared to commute for more than thirty minutes.

The rising cost of travel is likely to make unnecessary commutes even more stressful for workers this winter and should sharpen employers’ thinking about how, when and why they choose to bring people together at corporate headquarters. While regular meetings can be extremely valuable, it’s important that they have a clear purpose that people can get behind.

Overall, it’s clear that empowering people to achieve a better work-life balance is a win-win. According to Accenture, 63% of high-growth companies have adopted “productivity anywhere” work models, while 69% of companies with negative or no growth remain committed to dictating where people work from.

It’s also worth remembering that the hybrid model provides a strong boost for people who might be considered less able to work in more traditional, 9-5, office roles. As a working mother, I know how difficult it can be to juggle personal and professional responsibilities – but hybrid work has allowed me to take on a new, more senior role and achieve career highs that wouldn’t have been possible otherwise.

Fatima Koning, IWG

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This speaks to another key benefit of the hybrid model: its ability to help businesses retain and even recruit top talent. Providing avenues for promotion motivates and inspires employees who might otherwise feel low, “quietly quit” or want to move on. Meanwhile, our latest research shows that hybrid working is now a key benefit people are looking for when looking for work. In our survey, 72% of people said they would go without a 10% pay rise if they could keep the option of flexibility in their workplace.

Partnerships that promote health

While Covid-19 has had many negative consequences, one positive has been people’s renewed interest in healthy eating and fitness. People who previously struggled to find time to cook have become keen chefs and the pandemic has been linked to a renewed interest in getting fit and healthy with the adoption of the NHS Couch to 5k running programme.

But as the cost-of-living crisis bites, it’s no surprise that more than half of office workers recently surveyed by IWG said they have canceled or are considering canceling their gym memberships. That’s why we recently announced partnerships in the UK with BUPA and Hussle, the flexible gym provider. These will make it easier for our customers – whether they are self-employed, freelancers or working full-time for SMEs – to access the type of workplace benefits that are usually only open to those working for large companies.

By making quality private healthcare, as well as fitness opportunities, more accessible to their people, our partners can take advantage of the wellness benefits that hybrid work naturally offers. And from a business perspective, investing in these kinds of programs seems like a no-brainer. According to Deloitte, employers can expect a return of up to £5 for every £1 spent on health and wellbeing initiatives.

Avoiding isolation

Once a hybrid working policy is implemented, it is vital to ensure that it does not mean loneliness or isolation for team members. We’ve developed technology that helps keep people connected and happy at work by creating a virtual “neighborhood” where there’s constant, supportive conversation between teams.

We also recognize that our workspaces have the potential to fill a void that often occurs when people work remotely: a space where networking and collaboration can normally happen between colleagues. Our locations host events that bring people together from yoga classes to guest speaker talks and business lunches.

A shared workspace offers support for physical, mental and emotional health that people simply don’t have when working exclusively from home.

Happier, more productive people

The world’s most progressive companies are now taking a people-first approach to how their teams work. While hybrid working is not a silver bullet or panacea, it is a critical component of any modern company’s approach to health and wellbeing management.

The hybrid model is not only revolutionizing the way people work – but also the way they live.

In the new world of work, employers can actively improve the lives of their people and the benefits of this are real for businesses as well as individuals. Given the turbulent times we live in, it’s undeniably a responsibility – but it’s also an exciting opportunity that shouldn’t be missed.

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