A global pandemic is neither fair nor kind. It does not care that one has successfully managed to keep their personal and professional lives separate to date; to keep their employer at a distance when it comes to matters of mental health, ability, disability, family needs and grief. No, a global pandemic, instead, makes the personal professional and brings sharply into focus the overlap that exists between a person as a parent, sibling, child or spouse and as an employee.
Childcare needs, bereavement policies, performance management concerns, depression, hybrid schedules, disability accommodations, unmet accessibility needs, acute stress disorder – the overlap between “personal” and “professional” has gotten messy in the last few years. So messy, in fact, that according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 4.4 million employees quit their jobs in February of 2022 alone. Employees have had enough and are now resigning due to poor leadership, unhealthy environments, “work harder” mentalities and inflexible work schedules.
Beginning to clean up the mess this global pandemic has left behind requires employers to outwardly acknowledge that employees’ lives have changed. “Outwardly” means talking about the effects of the pandemic, fixing outdated policies, acknowledging missteps and re-creating workplaces so they are more inclusive. “Inclusive” means supporting the universal experiences of employees, validating their concerns and offering real-life, real-time support options. Both outward and inclusive leadership require active engagement and investment in employee well-being.
Our small, but mighty woman-owned business, ConcernCenter, built a technology platform to help employers outwardly and inclusively address employee’s concerns. We chose almost 100 employee concerns identified in focus groups such as: “can’t find childcare”, “running out of sick time”, “need disability accommodations” and more. Employees use the platform to select their concerns and then it anonymously provides support resources in- and outside of the company. Often used as an extension of a company’s Employee Assistance Program, ConcernCenter is helping company’s acknowledge employee concerns and invest in what’s important to them.
Businesses like ConcernCenter are keenly aware that unless an employee’s basic needs are met, their work performance will suffer. Even worse, employees may leave to find refuge in an organization that values their whole self. The Great Resignation has confirmed that employees have shifted the power dynamic, and that they will choose organizations that invest in their overall well-being.
Creating an inclusive workplace of the future requires acknowledgement that life is different now and so is work. For companies to thrive, post-pandemic, they must invest in building and maintaining an inclusive workplace that functions as a dynamic bridge between what is “personal” and what is “professional.” This bridge is known as employee well-being.