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Employee wellbeing: Five questions every leader should ask in 2022

Employee wellbeing: Five questions every leader should ask in 2022

Jehan Casinader is a leading journalist, speaker and mental health advocate who works with organisations to “flip the script” on wellbeing. Ahead of his keynote presentation at the Future-Fit Aotearoa conference, he shares five questions every leader should ask themselves in 2022.

 Is our organisation addressing overwork?

 The pandemic has caused many of us to rethink “how” we work. But what about “how much” we work?

New Zealand’s working hours are among the longest in the OECD. Wellbeing initiatives won’t make a difference if we don’t address the excessive volume of work that many staff are expected to complete.

As a leader, have you conducted a thorough assessment of the workload of each member of your team? Have you had a conversation with your staff about whether their current workloads are manageable?

If core business tasks cannot be reduced, what about cutting admin, unnecessary meetings, and tasks that can be delegated or outsourced?

In a tight labour market, staff who feel overworked are more likely to pursue other roles.

 Are we using digital tools effectively?

Many employers have adopted digital wellbeing tools, including apps and e-learning programmes.

Digital tools can provide a useful way for staff to access mental health resources. But they will never replace genuine human connection.

Giving each employee an app, or plonking a bunch of resources on your intranet, just doesn’t cut it. Do you know if staff are actually using those tools? What is the uptake? How many staff are still using them after two weeks – or two months?

If you invest in these resources, make sure you evaluate their effectiveness in your organisation.

Digital wellbeing initiatives should supplement – not replace – the work you’re doing to create a culture of psychological safety.

 Is our EAP service just the ambulance at the bottom of the cliff?

 When I meet an employer, I usually ask them, “What are you doing in the wellbeing space?” Remarkably, the first thing I often hear is: “Oh, we have EAP…”

EAP (an “Employee Assistance Programme”) provides free, private counselling sessions that are funded by the employer. This can be really beneficial for staff.

But too often, this service is used as a last resort – once an employee has already hit rock bottom.

Leaders can make all staff aware that they have access to free counselling at any time. Remind them to make use of this resource – ideally, at the earliest stage of mental distress.

Having an EAP provider is just one of the tools in an employer’s wellbeing toolkit. You cannot rely on it as your sole wellbeing strategy.

Do our leaders practice what they preach?

It’s one thing to encourage staff to prioritise their wellbeing. It’s another thing to demonstrate how to do that.

Staff mimic their leaders’ behaviour. We need leaders who role model healthy wellbeing habits.

Do you send emails at 10pm? Do you text staff with non-essential queries outside work hours?

Do you take regular breaks during the year? Are you willing to leave work early to attend your children’s sports events?

The answers to these questions may seem insignificant to you, but they can have a major effect on the people who work around you.

 What kind of story are we telling our staff?

 During Covid, workers are being bombarded with pandemic-related updates that often add to their anxiety. Every time they watch the news, visit social media pages or open their inbox, there are plenty of reasons to feel unsettled.

Leaders need to cut through the noise, and help employees to filter this information. In 2022, storytelling will play a vital role in workplace wellbeing.

Every leader is responsible for the story they tell about Covid. Are you constructing a hopeful, helpful story about what the year is going to look like? Or are you presenting your staff with even more doom and gloom?

Stories don’t just describe reality – they become reality. Make sure you create a good story for 2022, no matter what the year throws at us.