In the last few years the conversation around workplace culture and toxic work environments has increased. In 2020 there are four trends that companies and their HR departments can better prepare for: mental health, emotional intelligence, advocacy, and work-life alignment. During a time where there’s rapid change and companies are trying their best to implement technology and not fall behind, HR departments must not forget to address the well-being of their human capitol as they graft in more AI.
Workplace wellness initiatives that specifically address the mental health of their employees are on the rise. The leading cause of decreased productivity, increased errors, absenteeism, presenteeism, and short/long term disability in Corporate America is poor mental health. Currently, an estimated 1 in 5 adults in the U.S. have a mental health condition. These conditions not only impact individuals in their personal lives, but also in their professional lives.
Even with these statistics, mental health remains a taboo topic that many shy away from because it is misunderstood. One of the main reasons there is a stigma around mental health is due to it being presented as an illness model versus a wellness model. The stigma and misinformation are what companies need to address to create a safe environment for employees to discuss mental health concerns.
Every organization wants to be profitable and successfully navigate through the different seasons of economic and organizational changes. Research has shown that Emotional Intelligence (EI), more than knowledge, or technical skills, determines individual effectiveness, and business outcomes. Competency in this area differentiates high performers and propels leaders and organizations to higher and more sustainable levels of success.
When an organization and/or a team has employees with low emotional intelligence, it can negatively impact productivity, morale, and decision making. It also can increase stress among employees which may lead to serious health problems that can interfere with work and their quality of life. Thus, creating increased absenteeism, turnover, and reduced productivity; companies lose money when employees experience occupational stress.
Some organizations still waffle in deciding on whether to invest in emotional intelligence training for leadership and staff because they are unsure how the trainings will translate into real-time immediate returns. Emotional intelligence tackles issues related to stress management, employee engagement, unconscious bias, and workplace bullying. Finding a way to implement emotional intelligence initiatives that touch every level of employee engagement, from hiring new talent to promoting workers, would create substantial change and improvement in company culture, which in turn would increase profits.
Diversity-Equity and Inclusion will remain on trend. However, advocacy will be a specific area highlighted. Although mentoring isn’t necessarily a new trend, it seems advocacy would be the next level up. Having an assigned advocate for projects, compensation, and workplace relationships would help employees feel supported as they navigate through their professional career paths. Increased diverse hires are great, but if they are left frustrated by receiving great annual reviews but slow professional advancement, companies run the risk of losing high-potential talent. Better advocacy allows employees to feel visible and heard.
Increasingly, more employees are looking beyond job satisfaction and striving for more work-life alignment. There’s more desire in having work be purposeful and better align to one’s values. Meaningless work that solely provides financial security is a thing of the past. Employees want to believe in the mission and vision of an organization. Along with wanting to work for a company they can stand behind, they want to make sure that the time they are investing at said company is worth their time and that when they are away from work, their out of office time is respected.
So, organizations that offer, for example, increased flex-time to their employees do so in hopes of increasing job satisfaction and productivity. The challenge is in shifting the mindset of the company and/or manager from the belief that employees need to be seen from 8 am to 5 pm every day to prove their work ethic and efficiency. Or, penalizing employees for creating healthy boundaries around their time (i.e. not responding to text/calls during vacation time, parental leave, or FMLA). A company that considers and respects their employees’ values will create a workplace where talent will want to stay, show up, and give back.
Each one of these trends affects the other. If an employee doesn’t have proper advocacy it can put their work-life out of alignment, especially if they value achievement or being able to adequately provide for their family. This will more than likely cause their mental health to suffer, and they may begin operating with low-emotional intelligence which will therefore negatively impact their work and team morale. If companies want to remain competitive in acquiring and retaining talent, they will need to reevaluate their work environments and begin developing programs and initiatives that adopt these trends and turn them into essential company staples.
Farah is a psychotherapist and workplace wellness champion who guides individuals and organizations in decreasing symptoms of stress and burnout, elevating their emotional intelligence quotient while improving morale by implementing strategies to create healthier and equitable work culture. To hire Farah as a consultant or to speak at your next event, email: email@example.com