Employee Wellness and Retention Is a CIO Priority

Employee wellness is among the top priorities for executives and CIOs. The demand for talent is high, making turnover even more expensive than it was before the pandemic. 

Organizations are investing more to support employee wellness and retention. And to help meet these goals, IT is tasked with cultivating a technology infrastructure that supports employee well-being. 

Remote and hybrid work are common now, and many employees switch jobs to find such a work environment. But along with the pandemic came challenges to well-being. The dominant emotion of 2021, according to Adam Grant, is not joy or depression. It just might be languishing. And one remedy for languishing, says Grant, is getting into a state of flow where challenges are meaningful, work is enjoyable, and focus is preserved.

So how can IT help? How can IT contribute to an organizational culture that supports well-being? It starts with understanding what employees value – what they are seeking in their current or next positions.

Flexibility for Remote or Hybrid Work

Despite the often taxing nature of remote work, the workforce has also gotten used to its benefits. A large portion (39%) declared that they would consider quitting if they weren’t allowed to do at least some work remotely.

So executives are paying attention. A much higher percentage of the workforce is now working remotely or through a hybrid model. Human resources and executives want to know how to keep these remote workers happy.

They are giving more attention to preventing obstacles to their work – or finding solutions quickly. The instant provision of insights helps to solve problems quickly. And proactive detection of signals among noise helps to prevent issues in the first place.

Doing Relevant, Meaningful Work

When employees do work that they see contributing to the company’s goals and mission, their morale is higher. They are a part of something bigger than themselves. They know that their work makes a difference. If they can see the relevance of their work, they are more likely to enjoy it.

Doing meaningful work helps employees thrive. It makes room for creative innovation, which prompts breakthroughs, enhances professional development, and boosts profit. Many tasks today are repetitive manual labor. By automating that activity, companies give their workforce more time to brainstorm, research, and innovate.

But distractions abound. For example, sales seeks to maximize the time spent on revenue-generating activities. But salespeople, in fact, spend just 35% of their time on selling. Hubspot developed a whole model of frictionless selling to raise that percentage.

The need for meaningful work will also rise in the future. According to Microsoft’s 2021 Work Trend Index, turnover is even more likely among Gen Z, a growing segment that will make up 27% of the workforce by 2025. Yello found that Gen Z prioritizes the type of work they do more than other generations. Enabling employees to perform relevant, meaningful work will only get more important in the coming years.

A Sustainable Workload

Burnout. Zoom fatigue. Email fatigue.

The pandemic has taken a toll on our collective mental health. While some have valued more time at home, others miss the commute. And a spike in digital communication replaces much of the in-person communication that our bodies and brains are naturally wired for.

Facing the possibility of a “great resignation” due to this burnout, companies are adapting. In theory, more work from an employee means more productivity. But more work might also mean more fatigue, more burnout, more turnover.

So companies are adapting. Leadership that listens to employee concerns – and lightens the load where possible – can retain good talent. In addition to enabling meaningful work, automating also gives management the opportunity to reduce individual workload.

What Can IT Do?

In the face of turnover and new demands from employees, organizations have a raised awareness of employee wellness. Leadership is seeking to empower their remote or hybrid workforce with relevant, meaningful work – without burning them out.

Are there urgent fires that recur and that impede meaningful work and innovation? To put the topic in an ITIL framework, are you investing in problem management in order to prevent incidents?

Can you arrange for your employees to do more of the kind of work they enjoy doing? Can you replace repetitious labor with automated actions?

Covid-19 and the shift to a remote or hybrid workforce raises new challenges around employee wellness. For years, we have heard the adage that suddenly became very real with the pandemic – “work is not where you go, it’s what you do.” Employees want their work to be valued, no matter where they do it. And many are willing to switch jobs to get that support.

In future blog posts, we will offer ideas for why and how connected IT can give increased attention to employee wellness.

Update: see the next post in the series – Why Connected IT Improves Employee Wellness

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Alfredo Deambrosi