We have learned a lot about ourselves since the start of the COVID pandemic. Both personally and professionally, we have learned that life can turn on a dime. The lessons do not stop there. Even corporate America has learned a thing or two. For example, companies have begun figuring out that health insurance does not equal wellbeing.
This could be the biggest pandemic surprise of all in the corporate environment. For the better part of a decade, wellbeing in the workplace has been tied to health insurance premiums. Companies embarked on wellbeing initiatives so that they could check a box on their insurance applications in order to keep rates lower. But practically speaking, viewing wellbeing through that perspective accomplished little – if anything at all.
A New Emphasis on Wellbeing
The COVID pandemic forced companies to place a new emphasis on wellbeing. What it did not do is tell employers how to go about it. Employees stepped up and provided the answer. They did so in multiple ways, including making it be known that they prefer working from home.
Forbes Councils Member Alan Fergusson wrote a post in late July 2022 discussing how the COVID pandemic and remote work has influenced the wellbeing concept. In his piece, he cited the survey from the National Business Group on Health and Optimum revealing that working from home actually improves employee wellbeing.
Among the 2,000 employees surveyed, many reported that working at home gave them more economy over the jobs. It reduced their stress as well, including stress involved with the daily commute. As a result, they were happier and more productive.
Wellbeing Is about the Work
The one thing we seem to have missed all these years is understanding what wellbeing in the workplace is all about. It is not about physical or mental health. It is not about productivity and efficiency. All those things are ways to measure employee wellbeing. But wellbeing itself is about the work being performed and how it is being performed.
Employees who feel like nothing more than a cog in the wheel tend to be more unhappy about their jobs. In the end, they rate their wellbeing comparatively lower than happy employees. The fact is that workers would rather feel respected and valued by management than get a free lunch. They would rather know their input is taken seriously than attend the company-sponsored summer picnic.
The Great Resignation as Proof
There will always be those employers who do not want to associate a poor work environment with equally poor employee wellbeing. But the proof is there to be seen. Take the Great Resignation. Stepping back and observing the Great Resignation’s driving forces clearly demonstrates that unhappy employees are resigning in hopes of finding something better elsewhere.
BenefitMall, a Dallas general agency that represents more than a hundred carriers along with thousands of brokers, has written extensively about the Great Resignation. Many of their posts go back to the same basic concept: employees are no longer willing to work under the old model. They are no longer willing to be treated as human resources. They are demanding to be treated like human beings.
Employee wellbeing is more about work environment than health insurance. It is about how employees view themselves in the larger picture that is the workplace. If they are unhappy in their current circumstances, their wellbeing will suffer. No amount of health insurance benefits, gym memberships, etc. will change that.
Improving employee wellbeing is a matter of changing the way employees are treated. Treat them right and wellbeing goes through the roof. Treat them poorly and wellbeing goes out the window.