After the COVID-19 crisis forced organisations to look at workforce well-being and business evolution in a new light, enterprise decision-makers have learnt and applied some invaluable lessons. Three Deloitte transformation leaders – in a sequel to a discussion they began in May 2020 — examine some of the additional actions businesses can take to foster greater well-being in the workplace and during a business transformation. Learn how industry leaders have effectively addressed workforce stress, changing human needs and ongoing disruption while positioning their organisations to thrive.
“Never has it been more important to connect, to galvanise ourselves towards a shared purpose, and harness our nature as social species.” Darwin Deano, Principal and Global SAP Offering Leader, Deloitte Consulting LLP, opens the conversation with a rally cry that calls us to look out for each other. He also shines a spotlight on the very real potential of burnout, something he calls is a “carbon monoxide of the virtual world.”
Having recently published a book on the topic of human connections, Jen Fisher, US Chief Well-being Officer, Deloitte Services LP offers that the pandemic has been an accelerant to the loneliness many were feeling prior. She notes humans have adopted technology faster than anything in history, yet we struggle to adapt to it. We must, she says, be more intentional about relationships we cultivate, particularly in our professional lives, because the upside is significant. “Feeling connected, feeling a sense of belonging … makes all the difference in the world and can stave off the loneliness that so many of us are feeling and enhance work productivity, innovation, creativity.”
Nishita Henry, US Chief Innovation Officer, Deloitte Consulting LLP, adds that we do ourselves few favours by being our harshest critics, something she sees as a big contributor to burnout. The best approach? Get out of our heads and recognise that few people think about us as much as we think they do. This, she says, is where work connections are a huge plus: “It is a great source of comfort to know you have friends who know and understand what people are going through in your own environments. They give us perspective and that’s so important.”
Well-being as culture
Well-being needs to go beyond benefits and perks offered by HR. It needs to be about the culture, which Fisher firmly believes everyone has a role in building and maintaining. Take wellness and well-being programmes, for example. There is a better chance of employees using them if leaders openly demonstrate how they apply the programmes in their lives. Without that, “employees don’t feel like they have permission to take advantage of what’s being provided to them – and that comes down to culture.”
Henry brings up personal time off as a perfect example of well-being as culture, leading by example, and supporting each other, in this case specifically by calling out bad behaviour. “If someone is on vacation, but decides to call in for a meeting because they feel dedicated to their colleagues, it’s important we call that out. If we don’t model good behaviour – like not calling in on holiday – others will feel similar pressure and the bad behaviour continues. It’s not just top-down.”
Well-being, says Deano, needs to be part of the day-to-day. “Some people may have a tendency to compartmentalise well-being and put it on a pedestal. As leaders, we have the responsibility to lead by example.”
Not just about the number of hours
With remote working firmly entrenched in the modern work world, companies need to think differently about the hours people work in virtually versus in offices. “As we chart this path forward,” says Fisher, “we must all recognise that when we're working remotely, the hours might be the same, but that what you're doing during those hours is very different.”
Co-locating in an office gives people the opportunity have conversations, socialise, walk down the hall and get coffee. We give ourselves permission to walk outside to get lunch or have lunch with someone. When we work strictly from home, we are far less intentional about creating those kinds of breaks for ourselves. That, Fisher says, is creating burnout. Business leaders with a hybrid workforce need think about “permissioning” people to take the same kind of breaks during the day as one would if they were working in an office.
“Think about not just the sheer number of hours people work, but how they are actually spending their time because I think that that is one of the big areas that we're seeing that's leading to the fatigue and burnout.”
More than measuring outcomes
Corporate culture, particularly tech, is very attuned to outcomes. What is the deliverable? Was it delivered on time? On budget? Did all the features and functions make it into the product? And while all of those metrics are important, Henry encourages companies to recognise they’re only part of what’s important. For instance, as a leader, did you achieve all that but have 50% attrition on your team because of it? Did you sacrifice the camaraderie on your team? Do you have people so burnt out they need to take an extended break?
Well-being needs to be worked into transformations and people who are leading the projects need to have broader KPIs, key performance indicators. “We need to really be looking at the type of leadership on those teams, how those teams have come together, how much attrition is in those teams, how much those teams want to work together again,” Henry says. “All those metrics are just as important as the outcome, because it's only going to make the next project better if you can measure, more productively, the means of how you got there.”
The positive side of that focus on outcomes, Deano points out, is what is measured can be improved – and that includes the well-being of the team. Something with which Fisher wholeheartedly agrees. “If you aren't looking at and measuring the downstream human impact then you are suboptimising pretty much everything about your business.”
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