Nearly two-thirds of full-time employees are dealing with burnout on some level while at work. Combined with the fact that certain seasons can bring higher levels of depression, fatigue, and sadness, burnout can make employees especially vulnerable to mental health issues. Sadly, employees aren’t always keen to speak up about their wellbeing and frequently don’t have access to space where they can discuss these issues. We’ll use this post to explain how employers can use listening strategies to identify what employees are struggling with and how to take action on this feedback to address employee wellbeing.
Using employee listening to identify wellbeing issues
Employee listening is the process of continuously gathering feedback across the employee lifecycle. Employers can use this strategy to gain more insight into a variety of topics – including the wellbeing of your employees. Here’s how to collect this data at an organizational, team, and individual level.
Most organizations are aware that many of their employees are quietly struggling with mental health issues or burnout. But they may not know the best path towards addressing these issues. We believe that a wellbeing survey is the most effective and scalable way to collect information about how employees are affected, their needs, and how to take action.
When companies invest in researching, measuring, and acting on wellbeing, it benefits everyone. Studies by Work on Wellbeing found that higher wellbeing leads to increased productivity, fewer sick days, improved collaboration, and more general positivity from employees. If you’re not sure how to get started, our wellbeing survey allows you to assess how your organization is doing from various perspectives – from leadership to cultural – and unlock holistic insights that will help your people thrive.
To assess wellbeing at the team level, HR leaders can encourage managers to take one of these approaches:
- Break down wellbeing survey data at the team level. Understanding the data specific to their team can help managers identify the right actions to take. While it’s important to analyze the quantitative results, managers should also pay close attention to open-ended responses. These can surface issues that are significant but may not have made it through to the high-level results.
- Engage in regular check-ins with teams. Similarly, having conversations with the entire team can open up the floor to valuable feedback. One employee may feel nervous about raising workload issues themselves. But if their peers feel the same way, it can feel more comfortable discussing these issues as a group.
1-on-1 meetings present one of the best opportunities for managers to collect individual feedback from their direct reports. Unfortunately, many managers don’t take full advantage of these conversations and fail to check in with employees on important topics – such as wellbeing. Nearly 40% of global employees indicated recently that no one at their company had asked them if they were doing okay.
To prevent this from happening, help your managers strengthen their emotional intelligence. For instance, provide them with a list of caring questions that can open up conversations around wellbeing. Or coach them on relevant skills, such as learning to listen instead of jumping straight into problem-solving, or understanding how to ask more open-ended prompts.
Best practices to support the wellbeing of your employees
The findings from your employee listening strategies should drive specific actions. But there are also general best practices HR teams can start putting into practice today, which we share below.
1. Provide resources that align with employee needs
Employees rely on their companies to provide access to mental health resources. After receiving the results of the wellbeing survey, there are two approaches HR can take with their existing offerings:
- Refresh. It’s common for companies to offer great mental health resources that employees simply aren’t aware of. Almost 46% of workers said that their company had not proactively shared these resources with them, which indicates a need to refresh employees on what’s available to them. Host informational sessions to remind employees of the benefits they have access to and communicate this information across various channels.
- Revisit. If the employee feedback indicates that existing resources don’t align with your workforce needs, revisit your offerings and make adjustments as needed. For example, you may learn from the survey that having all your global offices take company-mandated time off on different days is problematic. It prevents employees from truly disengaging because one of their colleagues in a separate office might still be online and need something. In this case, you may want to adjust your offerings and designate the same days off for everyone in the organization.
2. Demonstrate support from the top
HR teams should have conversations with company leaders – from the CEO to frontline managers – to better support employee wellbeing. Here are a few examples of the types of topics and trainings you can introduce:
- Provide guidance on how to use inclusive language that doesn’t alienate those with mental health conditions.
- Suggest ideas around reducing workloads or offering employees additional days off work.
- Empower leaders to proactively take care of their teams instead of waiting for an “official” policy change. For example, if a manager is concerned about a direct report struggling with their mental health, encourage them to give that employee extra time off.
- Coach managers on how to have more impactful 1-on-1 conversations and use this time to connect with and check in on employees’ wellbeing personally.
While it’s important to take care of your employees’ mental health, it’s just as critical to check in with your own wellbeing – and that of your HR team and managers. Without addressing your own needs, you won’t have the energy to support the rest of the organization. So take the time to engage in self-care and monitor your frontline managers for signs of potential burnout. If you find that you or your managers are struggling, ask for help, and find ways to offload a few responsibilities. Or, if possible, take some time away from work.
3. Practice resilience
One of the best ways to support employees’ wellbeing is to help them build emotional resilience, whether that’s through workshops or training. This doesn’t mean leaving them to grit their teeth and push through their mental health issues. Building resilience is about helping employees become comfortable with uncertainty and learn the skills they need to recover their wellbeing after disruptive events.
But the burden can’t solely be on employees. Companies have to learn how to build resilience as well, by demonstrating flexibility in response to stressful situations. For example, let’s say your organization had a huge product announcement coming down the pipeline. But it’s clear that many of your employees are experiencing burnout from this project. Instead of forcing everyone to meet the unrealistic deadline, the CEO can also demonstrate foresight by moving back the launch date and – in the process – relieve the burden on employees.
There has never been a more challenging or critical time to support the mental health of your workforce. HR leaders can do their part by identifying precisely what’s impacting the wellbeing of their employees and taking action to address those needs. If you’re looking for additional resources to help you through difficult or uncertain times, check out our Working Through Crisis Toolkit.