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Is Covid Creating an Employee Wellbeing Paradox?

May 5 2021 - People success platform leader Glint, part of LinkedIn, has published results on employee well-being that show that employees feel stressed as well as more supported at the same time. Glintís Steven Buck tells us more.

In many ways, 2020 was an extended lesson in how to manage peopleís emotions and realities. The lockdown provided us with deep insight into what itís like to experience challenging beliefs, feelings, or realities at once - and this couldnít be more true for the work experience.

In what seems to capture the tumultuous state of work life since the pandemicís onset, employees report experiencing feeling happy and burned out at the same time. For example, Glintís latest insights report notes a concerning rise in employees reporting challenges with their mental health, with burnout risk trending upwards year-over-year, spiking in late March 2020 and increasing by nearly 4% between August and December 2020.

Work matters

Given the first testing months of the global pandemic, rising burnout risk is not a major surprise. Yet unexpectedly, employees also say they feel happier at work at the end of a year of lockdown than they did at the beginning. How can HR leaders best interpret these apparently contradictory findings? It turns out that while work life took a chaotic turn during the pandemic, employees found much-needed support, focus, and even refuge in their work situations. HR influencer Josh Bersin reminds us that this is because, "In a time of stress, if companies take care of them and they like the people they work with, itís a pretty nice thing to have in your life."

Work can offer people meaning and purpose. It can create challenges and growth opportunities that push us to improve and have a sense of accomplishment. Itís not an overstatement to say that, since the pandemicís onset, employees have been tested in ways that were previously unimaginable - and have risen to the occasion.

In 2020, organisations also gave their people a sense of security. The pandemic elevated basic human needs for safety and stability. The year-over-year rise in happiness we have captured at work reflects employeesí sense of gratitude for their job in turbulent times and, in many cases, the new resources and support their employers made available.

The lesson for the future

Organisations that provide strategic learning support and stretch assignments are poised to improve employee happiness while meeting changing business goals. When staff have been coping with so much upheaval and economic and personal uncertainty, work can provide people with meaning and purpose, as well as a sense of security.

Work is not a panacea, however, and itís certainly not all good news for employee well-being, as feelings of mental distress and exhaustion continue to increase worldwide. How can managers help?

Talking candidly to your team about well-being issues, helping them to prioritise tasks, and clearing barriers as well as providing clarity on strategy and goals should support their well-being. These are steps which can support your teams during this unprecedented and massive disruption to our work and home lives, and in dealing with the apparent burnout-wellbeing paradox.



About the author

Steven Buck

Steven Buck is Head of EMEA People Science at people success leader Glint, part of LinkedIn



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