The Future of Well-being at Work: Strategies for HR Leaders in 2023

Human resource leaders and benefits managers have navigated a tumultuous and unprecedented time. They managed through the pandemic, a transition to remote work, and the gradual reopening of the office. Layer on the Great Resignation, talent shortages, and the threat of recession, and one quickly realizes that HR Leaders have had a lot on their plates as they’re responsible for several functions that support well-being at work.

Pegged as volatile by the Harvard Business Review, 2022 will stand out as a year for HR leaders. Consider that:

  • In-person work is no longer the norm: There was no real return to in-person work in 2022, but rather a continued increase in the demand for remote and hybrid working arrangements. There was also an uptick in the number of companies that employed more flexible work options to retain employees through the Great Resignation.
  • Mental health acknowledged as needing to be at the center of the workplace: The U.S. Surgeon General reports that putting mental health at the center of workplace policies is more important than ever as the nation grapples with financial stressors, shifts in workplace culture exacerbated by the pandemic, and growing concerns about stress among Americans.
  • Prioritizing diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) is growing: DEI, especially for younger generations, continued to grow as a priority for employees and employers alike. According to Purdue University, organizations have an obligation to understand and respond to the world’s evolving cultural landscape, writing that not only is it the right thing to do, it is vital to a company’s success.

These pre-, mid-, and post-pandemic challenges greatly influenced the human resource department. HR teams are under more pressure to keep up with the rapid changes and needs of today’s workforce. The future of well-being at work requires organizations and their leaders to learn from the lessons of the last year. They must be forward-thinking, listen to their employees, and embrace well-being as a business priority. In short, invest in your people for organizational success.

More than ever, organizations are being asked to rise and adapt to the needs of an ever-changing and evolving world. Employers and workplaces need to be more dynamic, engaged, connected, and supportive.

KayCee Perron, Director of People Experience at Aduro

Four Considerations for Well-being at Work in 2023 and Beyond

1. Change Management Through Times of Uncertainty

According to new research from Microsoft, nearly 50% of employees and 53% of managers report they’re burned out at work. With the constant change of the past few years, unfortunately, those statistics aren’t surprising.

Many feel fatigued. And they’re continuing to experience changes in the face of economic uncertainty, political tensions, layoffs, quiet quitting, and more. The stresses of constant change and increased work demands can strain employees’ well-being at work.

Change can impact people in a variety of ways. Some are naturally more opposed to change. Others are greatly impacted by disruptions in the status quo. Some reasons for being more resistant to change include:

  • Not being made aware of the reasons for the change
  • Concern about its impact on their current job
  • Poor change management in the past
  • Lack of commitment and support from managers

There’s a variety of change management actions HR leaders can take to better support well-being at work and combat change-related stress, including:

  • Communicate clearly – Always communicate and maintain transparency when a big change has or is going to occur, keeping employees updated and in the loop. Creating clear lines of communication also allows for questions to be more easily answered and establishes trust between managers and employees.
  • Establish a strategy – Create a strategy to support and encourage employee adaptability. Whether it’s developing policies to mitigate setbacks, creating workplace programs for additional support, or training team leads on how to navigate difficult conversations, establishing a strategy that supports employee adaptability is a critical way HR leaders can manage through times of uncertainty.
  • Build resiliency – Create workshops and programs to increase resiliency, reframing any change as an opportunity to grow. These workshops can aid in creating support amongst coworkers, which has a positive impact on improving company culture.

2. Train Leaders to be Coaches

Gallup’s State of the Global Workplace: 2022 Report states that managers need to be better listeners, coaches, and collaborators. With 70 percent of employee engagement influenced by a manager, ensuring employees are on track to be leaders is a key component of ensuring well-being at work.

“Great managers help colleagues learn and grow, recognize their colleagues for doing great work, and make them truly feel cared about. In environments like this, workers thrive,” writes Gallup’s CEO, Jon Clifton.

Coaching builds stronger leaders. According to the Harvard Business Review, more executives realize that a successful leader must be a good coach. Coaches can increase self-confidence, improve work performance, and help build more effective communication skills. And with the well-documented benefits of coaching, training leaders to be coaches should be a focus for all organizations.

Investing in your employees requires investing in leadership and management, through:

  • Concentrating on training – Provide leadership development and training that can prepare leaders for the future of work while providing them with the skills to coach and better lead employees.
  • Developing soft skills – Focus on the soft skills that can translate into better coaching and improve company culture. These soft skills include empathy, relatability, and adaptability in leadership.
  • Setting goals & hold check-ins – Have managers check in with their team members on a regular basis, setting actionable goals and establishing a direct and consistent line of communication. These performance check-ins shorten feedback loops and can improve employee well-being at work.

3. Prioritize and Advance Health Equity

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there’s ample evidence that social factors, including education, employment status, income level, gender, and ethnicity, have a marked influence on a person’s health. Whether low-, middle- or high-income – there are wide disparities in the health status of different social groups. The lower an individual’s socio-economic position, the higher their risk of poor health.

Further, health coverage plays a role in enabling people to access health care and protecting families from high medical costs.

Kaiser Family Foundation reports that people of color have faced longstanding disparities in health coverage. Nonelderly American Indian and Alaska Native (AIAN) and Hispanic people had the highest uninsured rates at 21.2% and 19.0%, respectively as of 2021. Uninsured rates for nonelderly Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander (NHOPI) and Black people (10.8% and 10.9%, respectively) were higher than the rate for their White counterparts (7.2%).

The WHO asserts that health inequities have high social and economic costs for individuals and societies. It impacts a person’s physical health and emotional, financial, and overall well-being at work and in life.

To prevent these heavy tolls, employers must foster an equitable work environment that provides equal access to necessary health resources.

An organization must consider the diversity of its workforce and provide benefits that can support everyone. Managers must recognize how different identities can impact how employees view and get health care and create accommodating health programs. For example, 7 in 10 women have not spoken to their employer about menopause symptoms. And 42 percent of women considered leaving their job because of menopause-related challenges.

To advance health equity and well-being at work, HR leaders and managers should consider:

  • Ease & Accessibility – Ensure benefits are easy to access, understand, and use. If there are any questions, provide support and be available to help employees fully understand their benefits options.
  • Inclusive Language – Use inclusive, people-first language that does not favor or leave out any groups of people and is approachable and understandable.
  • Create a Supportive Workplace – Build a workplace culture that destigmatizes receiving care and creates community amongst coworkers. Try creating employee support groups or organizing company-wide health events that create community and encourage healthy living.
  • Health Screenings & Programs – Plan health risk assessments and support with biometric screenings and well-being programs.

4. Focus on Employee Retention

With layoffs, the Great Resignation, and quiet quitting featured in national headlines, research shows that HR leaders’ top priority is no longer hiring new talent but rather retaining existing talent. For example, only 17 percent of HR professionals said talent acquisition was a priority over the next 12 months, compared to about 40 percent of respondents in 2022. This decline reveals a shift away from talent acquisition and to employee retention as a priority.

As the workplace focus shifts to retention, employee happiness and well-being at work is advancing as a priority. Here are a few things HR leaders can do to increase employee retention:

  • Upskill & Reskill – Most employees are looking to use their current position and skill set to rise to a higher position. It’s crucial that employers provide opportunities for development and growth. Why? 94 percent of leaders say they would stay with their company longer if the employer invested in staff development such as career coaching, training, and education opportunities.
  • Stay Interviews – Conducting interviews with existing employees can provide critical information and help you understand why people stay at your company. Asking “What keeps you working here?” or “What skill would you like to learn or develop?” can unlock opportunities and reveal areas for growth for your organization.

A Glimpse into the Future of Well-being at Work

The past years have taught busy HR leaders and managers the importance of flexibility. Managing through times of uncertainty, ensuring that health and well-being are at the forefront, and supporting leaders to excel as coaches can help lead to success. To accomplish this, the business world needs to close the health equity gap so all people are supported and have equal access to necessary health resources.

The future of well-being at work in 2023 is people, people, people. By focusing on well-being and improving your employee retention strategy, your company can garner cost savings, increase productivity, and retain indispensable organizational expertise.

When people flourish, organizations thrive.

Here you can find more information on how Aduro’s well-being solutions can help inspire your employees to discover new possibilities in 2023.