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Cultivating Resilience and “Working” Through the Trauma of COVID-19

Check out highlights from our latest In the Know with iO session on how organizations can utilize wellbeing and resilience to lead transformative positive change.

Watch the full conversation here

The impact of trauma on our minds, bodies, and in the workplace

Trauma is very different from adversity, and although we turned the corner on the pandemic, we did not turn the corner on spikes in depression and anxiety. Although it seems that we are coming out of the trauma and are at the tail-end of this saga and are trying to transition back into our own lives, we are seeing an uptick in emotional and physical issues, from fear, anger, and obsessive-compulsive tendencies, to increased risk of heart disease, gastro-intestinal issues, and sleep disturbance, which often occur when we are coming through the end of a traumatic event. In the workplace, we are seeing increases in burnout, loss of motivation and engagement, as well as rises in mental health challenges such as depression and anxiety, all of which negatively affect employee productivity and engagement, and significantly contribute to the company’s costs and business ability to stay competitive in a rapidly changing market.

The most powerful protector against diminished well-being at work? Your manager!

While the impact of this trauma can spark feelings of hopelessness, there is good news for employees near and far. In meQ’s latest Pulse Check survey — a quarterly survey with meQ members tracing well-being (Psychological Safety + Employee Wellbeing: A 2022 meQ Member Research Report), they have found that employees who feel well supported by their employer have dramatically different outcomes than those who don’t.

Building a company culture of psychological safety

Just because a company has a certain type of culture today, doesn’t mean it has to stay that way down the line. Both the literature and meQ’s research show there is a significant overwhelming feeling amongst individuals in the workplace. What is the best way to tackle the challenges we see employees facing in the aftermath of COVID-19? To create a sense of psychological safety for employees. For organizations to help their employees understand what matters most, they must create a culture of psychological safety where they can openly talk about such topics and get clarity by listening, showing appreciating, genuine engagement, and essentially- building a relationship. Through respect, trust, and inclusion, senior leaders can create a culture of psychological safety that embraces wellbeing. This culture will ultimately encourage employees to speak up in respectful ways to managers and create a safe and comfortable space for open communication and feedback, providing employees and managers a sincere way to connect.

How meQ is supporting SAP and SAP customers in their organizational transformations

meQ currently supports SAP APJ region employees as well as various SAP customers in guiding them through their organizational transformations. In their work with SAP employees, meQ has found a misalignment between “the humans in the seats” and the pace of innovation, seeing gaps in growth mindset and growth orientation. SAP is working closely with meQ’s solution and insights from workforce intelligence systems across assessments to utilize meQ on an individual level for coaching employees, but also in a broader way to identify areas where SAP can launch new learning programs and understand on an organizational level the risks and inhibitors standing in the way of a successful transformation. meQ is also currently working with a large Food & Beverage SAP customer with a first-of-its-kind blended learning program with live teaching and digital coaching, that will give the organization common vocabulary to talk about growth mindset, resilience, transformation, and give tools on the team-level for better working toward goals.

Leveraging data to make the case for your employee mental health investment

Today, the goals of the CHRO and the CFO are aligned. Lapses in mental health and wellness are costing companies big. According to meQ data, there is an 18% average of less turnover amongst meQ participants compared to non-participants, short-term disability leave lengths are 25–50% less for mental health and non-mental health for meQ participants, and meQ participants see healthcare costs about $300 per year/per member less than non-participants (CASE STUDY: Health Insurance Company Boosts Employee Wellbeing, Reduces Healthcare Costs in Participants by 22%). In the longer term, investing in employee well-being will greatly impact an organization’s attrition rate and ability to attract high-level talent. Today, the best way to make the case in favor of your mental health investment is through cold-hard facts. Integrate meQ data on participation and resilience with the business outcomes that your CFO cares most about, whether it is healthcare claims, disability costs, turnover rates, etc. Know your stakeholders and what is most important to them, and utilize your data to show its value in a concrete way.

Now is the time to double down on employee wellbeing

According to Dr. Andrew Shatté, when we look at trauma, we generally see the breakdown of its impact on people in thirds: 1/3 of people struggle immensely, 1/3 just barely keep their heads above water and are treading, and 1/3 thrive and grow (Resilience and the Pandemic: The Law of Thirds). We see the same patterns when looking at the corporate world, and have seen companies that despite the trauma are able to grow and evolve their culture and business despite being in the midst of the most challenging moments. There is no doubt: now is the time to double down on employee mental and physical wellbeing. The organizations that recognize this and do so will be those who thrive, grow, and come out of this moment stronger than when they came in.

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Stephanie Horwitz

I lead global value creation for SAP.iO & I am the creator and host of “What Should I Do With My Life?”