Hybrid work and the rise of the four-day workweek are among the factors shaping employers’ well-being and mental-health strategies in 2023, says Laura Putnam, founder of wellness consultancy Motion Infusion.
“These trends point to not only a rise in the recognition of the importance of well-being at work, but there’s also a recognition that check-the-box wellness solutions aren’t going to meet people where there at.”
While many employers are asking employees to return to the workplace at least a couple of days a week, it’s unlikely that all organizations will revert to full-time onsite work, she says, adding hybrid and remote working arrangements are providing flexibility that supports a better work-life balance.
Similarly, the concept of the four-day workweek is gaining traction among employers. A recent global pilot program involving more than 900 employees and 33 employers found workers reported increased levels of engagement and improved mental health when working a four-day schedule.
“The [coronavirus] pandemic has revealed our human need for autonomy,” says Putman. “All of us are hard-wired to want flexibility in terms of where, how and when we work. Hybrid work and the rise of the four-day workweek are nuances of this deep-seated neurological need.”
The recent push for unionization in some sectors, particularly among employees working in frontline positions, as well as the ‘Great Resignation’ and ‘quiet quitting’ phenomena, are similar manifestations of a drive toward improved work-life balance, she added. “Whether unionized or not, employees are voting with their feet.”
And as employers increase their focus on supporting employee well-being, discussion of mental-health and well-being in the workplace is becoming increasingly important. Putnam cites a Monster.com survey that found 91 per cent of generation Z employees said they want to be able to freely discuss mental-health topics with their colleagues and managers.
To facilitate these conversations, she suggests company leaders take a proactive role in openly speaking about their own mental health to de-stigmatize the topic, while examining structural issues that lead to employee burnout.
“Every manager is uniquely positioned to promote or undermine their team members’ level of well-being. Being an effective leader means incorporating well-being into your leadership style. . . . Employers need to think about creating new norms around the topic of mental health at work. The old saying ‘check your emotions at the door’ no longer holds.”