We live in a time of disorder. We all feel the rumblings: an earthquake of societal and economic upheaval challenging institutions, governments, business, the environment. Longstanding conventions—laws, currencies, borders—meant to smooth over conflict and rise above cultural differences are being doubted and tested. And it’s not all at the abstract level of pandemics, economics and war. Even incivility in a grocery store can leave us shaken.
This is how chaos feels.
It’s difficult to wrap our heads around an exponential rate of change, to determine how we handle a long period of chaos. According to WEF Global Risk Report Data 41.8% of global leaders surveyed expect constant volatility with multiple surprises with a top 10 list of risks spanning social cohesion, deteriorating mental health and cybersecurity. Korn Ferry’s Briefings magazine cover headline, “Chaos Control” highlights the need for leaders to identify the issues and signals so they can take control of and act on the need to be highly agile and improvise solutions.
Ingenuity is the way to counter chaos.
When real earthquakes devastated Tokyo, people rebounded with new technology: seismic isolation systems for buildings, which decouple the foundations of skyscrapers from their upper stories. When the rumbling ends, the swaying buildings are still intact.
As business leaders, we need to decouple the shaky ground our workers feel from their ability to think, execute, and achieve. Chaos is immensely stressful. In the United States, anxiety is up 41%, stress is up 39%, feelings of social isolation and loneliness are up 28%. All of this, of course, carries into a person’s work life. According to Gallup’s 2021 Global Emotions Study, 41% of employees report experiencing constant worry throughout the day and 74% of employees say they’re extremely burned out.
For humans, the seismic isolation systems are psychological: skills and practices that help us think flexibly, separate real and unlikely risks, and stay calm in the face of challenge.
But here, too, technology can help us achieve change at scale. We can apply our immense AI capabilities to predict downward spirals from the individual level to entire populations. We can deploy highly personalized training at scale, not just for those people with mental illness but for everyone who has to react to the chaos—which is, in fact, all of us.
Wellbeing is a critical issue facing the workforce. 79% of Risk Managers are advising their organizations that workforce exhaustion and mental health challenges from sustained disruption are now serious business risks. The overwhelming sense of stress brought on by uncertainty and change, if left unmanaged, leads to work-life balance issues, change fatigue, higher turnover rates, and reduced productivity.
Here’s how to apply human ingenuity to the challenge:
Predict with Data
Prioritize Mental Well-being
Chaos is exhausting. There are actions we must take now to turn risk into opportunity and chaos into resilience. It’s the moment for ingenuity.
There is a disconnect between leaders’ and employee perceptions about the hybrid workplace and it could be hurting your people—and your business. A lack of clear guidelines about hybrid work is resulting in greater uncertainty and anxiety among employees. Not only does this put your hybrid and return to site plans at risk, but it’s costly and disruptive.
Here are some questions organizations should be asking themselves: Do you have clear guidelines? How can you do this with resilience, transparency and trust? Are you doing enough to ensure all employees feel equally supported?
The expectations between employers and employees around hybrid work are telling.
In our recent survey conducted in partnership with Executive Networks, at organizations that lack a clear roadmap for hybrid work, employees are more likely to struggle with engagement. And while 66% of Leaders say their organization has clearly defined and communicated hybrid work guidelines, only 47% of employees agree. This communication mismatch must be addressed for organizations to move forward with a successful transition to hybrid.
Organizations that fail to provide adequate support for all work environments risk damaging employee morale and retention. But what does adequate support look like? Overall, survey participants ranked positivity as the most important attribute for adapting to change in the workplace, followed by stress management, focus, empathy, and emotional intelligence.
Remote/hybrid workers who perceive they’re receiving less support than on-site employees struggle more with burnout and lower morale. Dissatisfaction leads to a higher likelihood of resignation, with 23% saying they’re likely to look for another job in the next 12 months compared to 12% of other respondents.
While the study found that a mismatch between employees’ actual and desired work environments threatens their wellbeing, it also found that clear hybrid guidelines have a big impact on employee perceptions of support and the ability to adapt to change. The study identifies steps that organizations can take to create a more resilient workforce, one that is able to embrace the realities of the new hybrid workplace.
There are actions you can take to move forward.
Address the disconnect head-on.
Understanding the conflicting perceptions of optimal work environments and promoting advancement in all settings is critical. Engaging in deep listening with all employee segments to understand preferences for their optimal work environment can create more understanding and help to reach a consensus on which job roles are ripe for remote, hybrid, and fully on-site work.
Set guardrails for hybrid work.
To enable greater resilience among employees in hybrid work environments, leaders need to create a clear roadmap defining expectations, tailored to their organization’s particular culture. For optimal success, leaders should go further by modelling desired behavior for their employees such as empathy, a focal point of workforce resilience.
Employer support means the world.
Employees assigned to their preferred work situation have a more positive employee experience. They are more likely to feel connected to their company’s mission and vision (80%) vs. those not working in their preferred environment (68%) and to feel positive emotions at work (77% vs. 64%).
Actions leaders can take to mitigate this include elevating wellbeing as a core component of employee experience, and being creative in exploring tech-enabled wellbeing tools for all employees, regardless of where they work.
Dealing with ambiguity and uncertainty in different work environments requires leaders to lead with empathy, gratitude, and kindness, while building both their own resilience and the resilience of their teams. For more tips on establishing clear expectations for the hybrid workplace, as well as how to lead employees who work fully in-person, remote, or in a hybrid environment, download The New Hybrid Workplace Build on Resilience, Transparency & Trust ebook.
meQuilibrium is here to help. Reach out to a Workforce Resilience specialist today.
We’re all at a point where our emotional reservoirs are running low. Amid global destabilization, social uprising, emerging health threats, and the ongoing fallout of COVID-19, 41% of Americans are struggling with mental health and 39% are struggling with stress.
On an emotional level, the pandemic created a perfect storm that drained our empathy and drastically reduced social interactions. It’s become easier to respond to day-to-day situations with apathy or indifference, where we would have previously shown greater compassion.
Healthcare workers in particular have felt the pressure. Since COVID began, the healthcare industry has lost an estimated 20% of its workforce. The worst may be yet to come, as 47% of U.S. healthcare workers plan to leave their current role within the next 2-3 years. In today’s workplace, over 65% of employees have expressed significant increases in stress, and 55% of employees are strongly considering resigning and changing jobs.
Although healthcare workers are under constant stress, they are also being called upon to demonstrate compassion throughout their workday. Together, these two factors work to drain the emotional battery, leading to an empathy deficit. The problem is, the more people experience stress, the less likely they are to be empathetic to others. It’s not that they no longer have compassion; it’s just that their ability to express it becomes exhausted.
The emotional toll employees have faced across healthcare and a variety of other industries actually has a name: Compassion Fatigue. The concept of Compassion Fatigue was first introduced by Joinson to characterize a state of reduced capacity for compassion as a consequence of exhaustion caused by contact with the suffering of others. This is seen by clinicians as secondary trauma and has far-reaching repercussions. A person experiencing Compassion Fatigue may find it difficult to love, nurture, care for, or empathize with the suffering of another.
What I’m seeing in my setting as a doctor is that while the signs and symptoms are the same as before the pandemic, they’re now amplified because we’re experiencing more trauma. Healthcare workers are often inundated with patients who are very ill. If our ability to be resilient is like a rubber band, no matter how strong we are, the more pressure we’re under, the more the rubber band is stretched. There are three ways to help your workforce get ahead of Compassion Fatigue with resilience, and create a culture of informed care.
Understand how Compassion Fatigue relates to burnout.
It’s critical to know how Compassion Fatigue relates to burnout. Burnout occurs when the demands being placed on an employee exceed the resources available to deal with them. Signs of burnout include sleep problems, physical complaints, lack of work-life balance, and life satisfaction, poor stress management, low work engagement and poor emotional control. Burnout can be triggered by increased workplace demands, lack of resources, interpersonal stressors, and organizational policy leading to emotional exhaustion, cynicism, and ineffectiveness.
Symptoms of burnout and Compassion Fatigue are similar, in that they are manifestations of emotional exhaustion. Compassion Fatigue includes symptoms such as isolation, physical ailments, bottled-up emotions, substance abuse, recurring nightmares, and flashbacks. Compassion Fatigue will amplify and accelerate burnout.
Understanding how Compassion Fatigue and burnout intersect can hold the key to understanding what needs to change.
Address social support and connection in your organization by making time to listen and understand.
Among the contributing factors for healthcare and frontline workers experiencing Compassion Fatigue are reduced physical contact in order to observe social distancing, and the increased use of protective gear. The reality is, humans need each other during challenging times—especially those in the role of caretaker, with the responsibility of caring for everyone else first.
As noted by David Rodriguez, Ph.D., Executive Vice President and former CHRO of Marriott International, “Building resilience is not just about the business. We’re firm believers that the first foundation to a healthy business is healthy human beings and having the right orientation to change.”
If listening to your people, hearing their stories, and understanding how they feel as a part of the effort to transform your workplace isn’t a standard practice, it should be, because it works. During COVID, Christy Ewing, Former Enterprise Wellness Program Lead at Centura Health visited all Centura hospitals to do rounds with an internal EAP, along with their spiritual team. After rolling out meQuilibrium, “People would come up to me and tell me their stories and how it has impacted the way they handle stress in their lives and the way they show up in their days. It was very inspiring to hear…we took those stories and shared them across our system in our entity newsletters.” Centura benefitted by recognizing the importance of meeting people where they are, and making an effort to have important conversations, building relationships, and connecting with people.
Create an action plan to address Compassion Fatigue and burnout for 100% of your population.
Addressing workforce resilience is a critical strategy to help address the root cause of Compassion Fatigue symptoms. A critical step is to help provide your people with access to the right tools, including an EAP, telehealth, and skill training. Here’s the question organizations should be asking: How can resilience skills complement company goals to create a culture of caring?
A well executed action plan can have a positive impact with people and also with organizations. For example, one hospital system with more than 15,000 employees was struggling with a high stress work environment, which was impacting front line worker behavior and ultimately patient satisfaction. The company adopted meQuilibrium’s digital coaching platform with the goals of increasing their employees’ abilities to cope with stress and adapt to change, improve productivity, increase employee engagement, and lower absenteeism. Arming leaders with detailed workplace insights to unveil population risks, the company saw a 20% improvement in burnout, emotional control, and productivity. They also saw significant improvements in absenteeism.
Many problems of today’s world are unavoidable, but Compassion Fatigue and related risks such as burnout and stress can be addressed through resilience training for the betterment of your workforce.
Ready to build a culture of caring in your workplace? Reach out to a meQ Workforce Resilience specialist today.
No doubt you’ve seen a sign in your or another workplace that touts the number of days since the last lost-time accident. This is because there is no shortage of laws and regulations protecting employee physical health and safety in the workplace. Employee mental wellbeing is more of a free-for-all, at least as far as formal guidelines or regulations go.
Many human capital leaders are asking themselves questions, like:
Good questions, indeed. Enter the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), which offers some detailed guidance on these and other related questions. If you are a leader in the manufacturing sector, you’re probably familiar with ISO. Across a wide variety of issues, adhering to ISO standards demonstrates that a company is committed to quality, regulatory compliance and has customers’ needs as a top goal.
What’s a Psychosocial Risk?
When it comes to mental wellbeing, ISO 45003 is the relevant standard. The guideline lays out principles and practices for identifying and managing psychosocial risks in the workplace.
For the very first time, it provides a clear framework for how to manage and protect mental wellbeing at work. How? By plugging the gap in current workplace safety guidance, via the concept of ‘psychosocial risks’. Psychosocial risks are simply aspects of the structure and organization of work including:
What are the benefits of addressing psychosocial risks?
Implementing a program to identify and take action against psychosocial risks in the workplace has numerous benefits for your workforce, and across your business:
The returns to investing in a program to identify and address psychosocial risks are substantial and measurable. A Lancet study shows that for every $1 invested in mental health evidence-based programs, employers can save $2-4 on other expenses.
In addition to the well-documented financial outcomes, adopting ISO 45003 in whole or in part also will produce intangible improvements and reflect positively on your employer brand.
Where do I start?
The ISO 45003 standard provides guidance on the identification and management of psychosocial risks, as part of a comprehensive occupational health and safety management system. It includes:
Commitment to many ISO standards involves an annual audit where compliance is confirmed by an independent third party.
Can meQ help?
Sure can. Data from meQ’s clinically-validated assessment can help identify the psychosocial risks across your workforce, take action to reduce those risks through cognitive behavioral (CBT)-driven interventions, and then measure improvements through reductions in stress, depression, anxiety, and burnout. If you want a deep dive into employee perceptions about the structure and organization of work, that’s an area where our experience also runs deep.
No matter your industry, meQ can help you identify and reduce risks. Our data assets can help you document compliance with ISO 45003. Not only will you gain compliance, but you will reap the many benefits of improved mental wellbeing across your workforce:
Read more about how meQ can support ISO 45003 in your organization.
The remote/hybrid/onsite discussion is heating up. After the newness of no commute and improved work-life balance has worn off, a set of strong contrarian views seems to be emerging. Malcolm Gladwell is on the record lamenting that people need to come into the office in order to feel like they are part of something larger than themselves, even going so far as to say that “Working at home is not in your best interest.” A new slice of Gallup data has added fuel to the fire — with the Wall Street Journal noting that remote work has been detrimental to work friendships, heightening concern about employee engagement and flight risk.
The risks and rewards of remote/hybrid work have been central to the work our research team has done here at meQ. Back in March, the implications of remote/hybrid figured prominently in our research report The New Hybrid Workplace. We’ve also been tracking wellbeing outcomes for remote, hybrid and onsite workers since not long after the pandemic started, noting differences in the value of employer support in our January 2022 Self-Check report.
In stark contrast to the recent negative turn of opinion on remote work, our latest Self-Check delivered some fascinating findings that suggest that the remote workforce might be different in some very important ways.
Let’s talk about psychological safety and remote work
Conducted among more than 3,900 employed meQ members in July 2022, this fifth iteration of our Self-Check series asked our standard questions about wellbeing and employer support. In addition to the core items, we also introduced a set of questions designed to dig deep into psychological safety at work.
If you’re not familiar with the concept of psychological safety, it was developed by Harvard professor Amy Edmondson and is defined as a shared belief that “the team is safe for interpersonal risk-taking.“ To get at this concept, we employed six questions from Edmondson’s survey:
Allowing space for people to speak up and share their ideas is foundational to innovation and successfully transitioning through change. Without a sense of psychological safety, team members may choose not to: weigh in with new ideas, offer suggestions for changing suboptimal processes, or raise potential concerns about a critical project.
The average employee enjoys a fairly solid sense of psychological safety
The good news is that, by and large, most employees enjoy a pretty high degree of psychological safety. Across more than 3,900 responses, substantially fewer than 20% of members reported negative perceptions about their teams — feeling like mistakes are held against them or being afraid to ask colleagues for help. On the positive side, about three-quarters of respondents reported feeling safe taking risks on their team, and felt like their contributions are valued and respected.
But, psychological safety is at risk among exclusively onsite employees
Onsite employees are much more likely than remote/hybrid employees to report negatively about experiences with their team. They are 66% more likely to feel like mistakes are held against them, 56% more likely to say that people are rejected for being different and 36% more likely to find it difficult to ask teammates for help (Figure 1).
We saw a similar but slightly less dramatic pattern on the items that focus on positive characteristics (Figure 2). Those working onsite are less likely to feel at ease discussing difficult topics, less likely to feel safe taking risks and less likely to feel that the team respects and values each other.
In short, remote and hybrid employees perceive their team environments as having a much higher degree of psychological safety.
It’s not just a different mix of people on site vs remote
We poked and prodded at these findings — inquiring whether it was age, gender, race/ethnicity or other factors that might explain the differences seen between onsite and remote/hybrid employees. No matter how we cut the data, remote/hybrid employees consistently report higher psychological safety than onsite employees. While the evidence is strong that there is a real difference across work settings, it could be the case that employees in remote settings feel a higher level of psychological safety just because they don’t know what they don’t know. By virtue of being remote, these employees are out of earshot of office common area conversations, and/or less able to read facial expressions on video calls — either of which may lead to a misperception about psychological safety.
It might be about manager support for mental wellbeing
While a root cause analysis awaits a more in-depth study, data on manager support for team wellbeing across these two settings suggests a possible partial explanation for the enhanced psychological safety experienced by hybrid/remote employees. Compared to onsite employees, remote/hybrid employees in our sample were substantially more likely (+10%) to say that their manager is looking out for their wellbeing. Combined with the stress and strain of a global pandemic, the move of many workers to hybrid and remote settings has made it harder for managers to walk by and see how people are doing. As a result, managers have had to become more intentional as they check in with team members, providing the kind of emotional support that is favorable to psychological safety.
Reluctance to return is more than just the commute
Data from this self check show that almost half (46%) of employees who are currently remote/hybrid would quit their job before they would go back to their normal work site full time. Commuting and work-life balance issues certainly have a role to play. However, there also appear to be real things happening in the onsite setting that impact mental wellbeing and psychological safety. Collaboration tools may afford just enough physical distance to make people more comfortable weighing in. For what it’s worth, as a career-long remote employee, it’s been my own experience in meQuilibrium’s remote-for-the-first-time environment that when everybody is the same size square on the video call, it’s easier to speak up and be heard.
As employers continue to consider how best to structure the workplace, leaders will need to address this very real gap in psychological safety across work settings in order to ensure that innovation, creativity and change-readiness is not compromised in the return to onsite work.
Early talent recruitment faces new challenges each and every year. However, this year has its own particular challenges. Recruiters are struggling to know where to focus their efforts due to an economic turndown, tech layoffs, hiring freezes, and more. These storms can be weathered if teams focus on the right initiatives, prepare for upcoming challenges, and build on what's already working. The following are some early talent challenges to keep in mind for the year ahead.
Early talent does not want to be treated like a number. These candidates are very concerned about making real connections with potential employers when vying for jobs. They are looking for genuine real connections during the hiring process. They want to get a good sense of the company culture, what the team environment is like and how they will be able to grow their skills at your organization. So how can recruiters effectively address this need?
Creating a strong employer brand goes a long way toward building and nurturing connections with early talent. This should start as soon as possible—even in college students’ freshman year—and be maintained over time so potential candidates become familiar with your employer brand and view it in a favorable light. Make your brand as visible as possible on campus, create a value proposition for students by showing you care about their success, and ensure that your company is offering the benefits Gen Z cares about.
When dealing with candidates directly during the hiring process, technology can be used to increase personalization, even though you're communicating with numerous applicants. Doing things like checking in with candidates via text to let them know the status of their applications, creating segmented email campaigns based on the specific interests of people in your pipeline, and staying in touch with past and present candidates to see how they're doing will go a long way toward creating the connection that early talent craves.
Workers have always had their share of challenges, but early talent seems to be having a particularly difficult time. According to a survey conducted by the American Psychological Association, 27 percent of Gen Zers report that their mental health is fair or poor—a much higher percentage than Millennials and Gen Xers, who report fair or poor mental health at rates of 15 and 13 percent respectively. As a result, wellness should be a priority for organizations in 2023 because early talent applicants expect their employers to care about their well-being.
Tackling challenges around wellness is a tall order, but companies need to have a culture that prioritizes mental health to successfully recruit early talent. Offer benefits that help employees maintain good mental health, which not only include access to therapy and an employee assistance program, but also benefits like flexible work schedules, training that helps employees cope with stress, exercise programs, and career development assistance.
But efforts to address mental health should not end there: Your company’s leaders need to also play a role. Providing training for those in managerial positions will help them engage with employees about mental health issues, listen empathically, and provide employees with valuable coping and resilience skills to handle any workplace challenges they face.
Early talent today is coming into the workforce with a drive and entrepreneurial spirit. They are extremely interested in working for organizations that value them enough to support their growth—and companies are much more likely to retain them when they do. Early in career talent won't settle for being stuck in a dead-end job for years without any advancement in sight, so when organizations don’t put in the effort to help them grow, retention is a challenge. This means businesses need to find ways to prioritize internal mobility and give young professionals chances to climb up the ladder of the organization.
To demonstrate an investment in early career talent, be sure to create clear career paths so they can see themselves at your organization in the long term, and know what steps they need to take to achieve advancement. In addition, provide in-house training to boost employees’ skill sets, as well as pay for certifications that give them the knowledge they need to grow as professionals.
Also, as employees move into managerial roles, continue their training. Although they may have mastered many skills that are important for advancement in your field, they still may need education to become effective leaders. Many early talent professionals aren’t leaving their jobs because they don’t like them. They are sometimes leaving due to poor management. Therefore, investing in management training can prevent unnecessary conflicts, keep employee morale high, and improve retention, especially among Gen Z workers.
Companies know that hiring early talent is important for the future of their businesses, but they may not necessarily know the most effective ways of attracting and retaining them. By understanding the talent acquisition trends of Gen Z hiring, as well as the challenges early talent teams face, you’ll be in the best position to reach your early talent recruitment goals.
Our team has assessed thousands of buying processes - from point solutions to global full-suite rollouts at companies of all sizes and industries. We combined our experience with conversations we had with leaders from some of the top digital transformation firms in the HR Tech space and practitioners that have gone through this process - with failure and success. We found incredible consistency between all of the success stories and even more with the failures. While more than 80% of companies have undertaken digital transformation initiatives in the last five years, only 16% say these have successfully improved performance and equipped them to sustain changes in the long term
We have identified three key steps when buying HR technology: Planning & Building a Business Case, Evaluating & Selecting the Solution, and Implementation & Digital Transformation. All stages are essential to the success of the process regardless of company size, industry, or type of technology being assessed.
Today's blog focuses on Step 1: Planning & Building a Business Case.
Some common areas to think about when looking at the business impact of HR Initiatives: