Tech leaders discuss the importance of employee wellbeing at work

In this article written exclusively for Business Leader, several UK tech leaders discuss the importance of employee wellbeing at work.

Businesses have seen a seismic shift in their priorities, with employee mental wellbeing being one of the most crucial and the role of the workplace changing forever. Two years on, the effects of the pandemic are still being felt and heavily influence employee health and wellbeing.

With many organisations grappling with remote working, managers have to balance growing their business and find new ways to support their employees’ wellbeing.

Communicate and respond to employees

The last few years have taught us the value of asking for help, and the same can be said for businesses. Creating safe spaces and clear processes for employees to raise their concerns can reduce stress.

Gemma Collins, Strategic HR Director at emerging talent management consultancy, Grayce, says: “Adopting the Mental Health at Work Commitment framework is one way we have tried to combat unnecessary stress in the workplace at Grayce. It builds on existing pledges and standards, which underpin a roadmap to achieving better mental health outcomes for those in work. By providing a safe place for employees to be their authentic selves and gain access to our 24/7 wellbeing services, we can ensure that our business is leading the way in implementing positive mental health standards.”

Jasmin Mantel, HR Director, SAP UK, also believes that companies can better deliver on supporting staff by conducting regular surveys and acting on the results. She says: “We have a number of programmes in place designed to support employee health and wellbeing in the workplace. For example, we have also tailored our approach to health and wellbeing by partnering with Peppy to make it quick, easy and free for our employees to access expert support in areas such as early parenthood, menopause, fertility and men’s health.”

Invest in your staff

The new way of working has brought a renewed focus on Learning & Development. Kevin Hanegan, Chief Learning Officer at Qlik, believes more needs to be done to support employees. He says: “Qlik’s recent study found that 45% of UK respondents said they’re feeling anxious that their employer is not taking responsibility for nurturing their skills to succeed in this future workplace. 32% of UK employees quit their role in the last 12 months in pursuit of better training to prepare for future working conditions.

“Organisations must understand that as the use of data continues to transform, so must the ability of their workforces to make the most of these new opportunities. This means organisations should invest in their people as much as their technology during this transformation”

Raise awareness about challenges

Derek Lee, Staff Engineer at VMware Tanzu Labs, explores why it’s important to keep an eye on those who are driving the day to day behind the scenes. He states: “Developers usually work independently, they also often find themselves isolated and lost down a “rabbit hole”. When there’s only one person who understands how a specific feature was implemented, there is also immense pressure on that individual to get the job done.

“Collaborative development processes, like pair programming, help developers avoid rabbit holes through creating a culture of fast feedback and knowledge-sharing. Approaches to collaboration based on equal parts observation and communication are always more effective in keeping people engaged, and in turn, creating a supportive environment for them to thrive in.”

EJ Cay, VP UK & I at Genesys, adds: “Those working in customer service are often speaking with people when they’re at their most frustrated or vulnerable. This stress can then take its toll on everyday life, causing a multitude of issues. This not only affects our quality of life and wellbeing, but it also affects how well we work with others.

“For employers looking to help reduce stress on their contact centre employees, consider more regular check-ins, listen to the agents and create space for them to share. It’s a great opportunity to give them some performance tips or to just generally see how they’re doing. With hybrid working here to stay, encourage agents to also schedule peer-to-peer calls, so they continue to feel part of the team in an increasingly unconnected world.”

Incorporate technology and new ways of working

Organisations should be actively capitalising on the vast array of technologies that are now available to help better support the workforce, especially with hybrid working here to stay.

Kate Judd, SVP People and Culture, at Lucid, says: “Companies need to be looking at new tools that can help make virtual collaboration as engaging and impactful as in-person. For instance, virtual whiteboards can help ensure everyone’s ideas are captured during a brainstorm and enable remote workers to continue to contribute to the discussion even after the meeting has ended. Through asynchronous collaboration, they also ensure anyone can contribute when it suits their working times, meaning they can fit it around childcare duties or other demands.”

James Bristow, SVP EMEA at Cradlepoint, adds: “Giving employees the flexibility of choosing where to work gives a massive boost to employees’ wellbeing. Research conducted by Cradlepoint found that 33% of UK adults would use holiday destinations as work hubs. The key to supporting this is ensuring that they can still engage with the office experience and collaborate with colleagues.

“Fortunately, we now have the technology to easily and quickly implement reliable, manageable, secure and cost-effective dispersed networks for employees. By embracing 4G or 5G cellular technology and dedicated routers, businesses can deliver a work from anywhere environment that “just works” for the employee, helping boost productivity, and not compromising IT requirements and security.”

Gavin Mee, Managing Director, Northern Europe at UiPath, says: “Upcoming research from UiPath shows that nearly 30% of the UK workforce says they feel exhaustion or burnout symptoms during a typical workday. Remote work brought many advantages but also made some suffer from isolation, lack of support, constant distractions, and anxiety.

“An integral part of creating the ideal employee experience is providing workers with the right tools to make their jobs as enjoyable, value-driven and as seamless as possible, helping to reduce any unnecessary stressors. One of the key stressors for the UK workforce has been repetitive tasks, such as data entry and administrative functions. Businesses should look at identifying and automating routine and time-consuming tasks, allowing employees to focus their time on work that requires critical thinking, creativity and human ingenuity.

“Additionally, businesses should be looking at upskilling and reskilling initiatives that enable their workforce to become proficient in using no-code-/low-code technologies and build automations of their own. This empowers employees to take back control of the time they spend on tasks and improves employee wellbeing.”

One thing is certain: whether an employee has a mental health problem, an employer has a duty of care to ensure their health, safety and wellbeing. Good employers know that their organisation is only as strong as their people, and mental health is the foundation for maintaining employee engagement and delivering on performance.

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