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    Navigating the Impact of the ‘Flexi-fallout’ on Employee Wellbeing

    Remote and flexible working arrangements have become the new norm, and in 2023, at least 44 percent of employed adults worked this way.
    But as businesses begin to transition back to onsite working, employees are growing concerned that they will lose the flexibility they’ve grown accustomed to.
    This anxiety will likely cause an increase in flexible working requests under the Flexible Working (Amendment) Regulations 2023.
    To address these concerns and support employee wellbeing during this transition, employers must take proactive steps to assess and mitigate the potential negative impacts of the ‘flexi-fallout.’
    Consider the impact of the ‘flexi-fallout’ on employees
    While mandating a return to onsite working may seem like a straightforward solution to increase productivity, it’s essential to consider the broader implications for employee wellbeing.
    For the majority of employees, the flexibility afforded by remote or hybrid work arrangements is pivotal for maintaining a work-life balance, and removing these options could result in increased stress, work dissatisfaction, and ultimately, burnout.
    Research has shown that hybrid work models can enhance productivity and job satisfaction, with 65 percent of hybrid workers reporting increased productivity and 59 percent experiencing improved job satisfaction.
    Before implementing any changes, employers must carefully evaluate how transitioning back to on-site working will affect their employees’ emotional well-being and productivity and whether the change is warranted.
    It is crucial to engage in open dialogue with employees to understand their perspectives on flexible working. By soliciting feedback and addressing concerns, employers can ensure that any decisions regarding workplace policies are informed and considerate of employee needs.
    Model benefits during the transition
    Workplace culture plays a major role in employee wellbeing and happiness, and maintaining a healthy outlook will help to facilitate a smooth transition back to onsite working and prevent a flexi-fallout.
    Employers should lead by example by encouraging employees to embrace the change in working policy and help them feel more motivated and supported about returning to the workplace.
    Taking a punitive approach to enforcing onsite attendance can backfire and lead to increased worker dissatisfaction and potentially higher employee turnover.
    Instead, employers should emphasise the benefits of returning to in-person working, such as increased social interaction, collaboration, and creativity.
    Office environments offer opportunities for spontaneous interactions and idea-sharing that can enhance problem-solving and alleviate feelings of isolation experienced by remote workers.
    Emphasising the value of these face-to-face interactions can help employees feel more connected and engaged with their work and colleagues.
    Establish a supportive workplace culture
    Creating a healthy and inclusive culture at work is vital for prioritising employee wellbeing and maintaining employee motivation and efficiency.
    Employers have a responsibility to cultivate a good working environment and must establish open lines of communication and stress the importance of a healthy work-life balance.
    A recent survey found that one in three workers have quit a job due to poor management and toxic work culture, but organisations that establish a respectful, transparent, and trustful environment are more likely to make their employees feel valued and empowered.
    Encourage workers to raise concerns they may have and remind them about setting boundaries and taking regular breaks to protect their well-being while enhancing job satisfaction and reducing the risk of burnout.
    Support employees with the right resources
    Transitioning back to onsite working from flexible working can be a struggle for some employees, but making resources and support services available can ease this process.
    Mental health support services like Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) sessions can equip workers with tools to manage stress and anxiety and address other mental health concerns that can create further workplace challenges.
    Counselling services like Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) can help employees deal with personal or work-related challenges to mitigate stress and improve emotional and mental well-being.
    Improved employee well-being can reduce absenteeism and enhance productivity to the benefit of both workers and employers.
    All teams should also complete emotional literacy training which can help colleagues empathise with each other as they undertake workplace changes, and this will also help with coping with complicated interpersonal dynamics to foster healthy communication and resilience.
    By prioritising employee wellbeing and fostering a supportive and resilient workplace culture, employers can ensure a smooth transition back to onsite working while maintaining high levels of morale, productivity, and job satisfaction to successfully avoid a ‘flexi fallout.’
    By Gosia Bowling, National Lead for Mental Wellbeing at Nuffield Health.
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    The Reskilling Revolution: How Asia-Pacific is Leading the Charge in the Future of Work

    The landscape of work is undergoing a dramatic transformation across the globe. But in the Asia-Pacific (APAC) region, something truly remarkable is brewing. Here, innovation, flexibility, and a willingness to embrace change are shaping the future of work in exciting ways. This article explores five key trends that will define the APAC workplace and how talent acquisition, recruitment, HR, and employer branding professionals can navigate this evolving landscape.
    1. From Routine to Revolution: The Rise of the Innovation-Driven Workforce
    Gone are the days of rote memorization and repetitive tasks. APAC is experiencing a rapid shift towards a workforce that values creativity, problem-solving, and critical thinking. A McKinsey & Company report predicts that by 2040, China and India will contribute a staggering 50% of global GDP. This economic boom is pushing APAC companies to automate routine tasks at an unprecedented rate.
    The focus is now on upskilling employees for roles that require a different skillset – one that prioritizes digital fluency, analytical thinking, and the ability to solve complex problems. Singapore’s ambitious goal of achieving a 50% job transformation rate by 2025 (as highlighted by LinkedIn’s Jobs on the Rise Report) underscores the urgency for innovation-driven skill development. Leading companies like Alibaba, Tencent, and Huawei are at the forefront of this movement, heavily investing in R&D and fostering dynamic cultures of innovation.
    Actionable Insights:

    Conduct skills gap analyses to identify areas where your workforce needs upskilling or reskilling.
    Partner with training providers to offer relevant courses and workshops on topics like data analysis, problem-solving, and digital communication.
    Encourage a culture of continuous learning by providing employees with opportunities to attend conferences, workshops, and online courses.

    2. Bridging the Gap: The Rise of the Hybrid Workforce Model
    Remote work isn’t a perk anymore; it’s a reality for a significant portion of the APAC workforce. A recent M Moser Associates survey reveals that a staggering 45% of Asian employees prefer a hybrid work model, significantly higher than the global average of 37%. Companies like Fujitsu, with their “smart work” policy, and Grab, with their “flexible work” program, are recognizing this shift and proactively responding to employee preferences.
    This flexibility allows them to attract top talent in a competitive market while catering to the evolving needs of their existing workforce. However, creating a seamless integration between remote and on-site teams, fostering employee engagement in a hybrid environment, and navigating legal and logistical hurdles remain crucial challenges that HR professionals need to address.
    Actionable Insights:

    Develop clear policies and guidelines for remote work arrangements, including communication protocols, expectations around performance, and data security measures.
    Invest in collaboration tools and technologies that facilitate seamless communication and teamwork between remote and on-site employees.
    Organize regular virtual and in-person team-building activities to maintain employee engagement and company culture in a hybrid environment.

    3. The Human Touch in the Age of Automation: The Skills of the Future
    As automation and artificial intelligence (AI) redefine job roles, the need for a blended skillset becomes paramount. While technical expertise is important, the World Economic Forum emphasizes the growing importance of “soft skills” in the APAC region, particularly analytical thinking and design/user experience.
    AgileHRO predicts a rise in demand for skills like data analysis, problem-solving, and digital communication, coupled with empathy, emotional intelligence, and the ability to build strong human connections. This focus on “soft skills” positions Asian workforces to excel in an environment where building rapport and adapting to change are key differentiators.
    Actionable Insights:

    Integrate soft skills training into your employee development programs, focusing on areas like communication, collaboration, and emotional intelligence.
    Encourage teamwork and cross-functional collaboration to promote idea exchange and the development of essential soft skills.
    Recognize and reward employees who demonstrate valuable soft skills such as leadership, problem-solving, and adaptability.

    4. Beyond Borders: The Rise of Borderless Talent Acquisition
    The intense competition for talent in Asia is pushing companies to think beyond national borders. With a whopping 90% of the APAC workforce open to remote or hybrid work arrangements (as per PWC Asia Pacific’s Time report), the talent pool is expanding exponentially.
    Singapore, for instance, with its diverse talent pool and thriving startup ecosystem, attracts tech talent from across the region. Companies like Sea Group and Razer leverage this advantage effectively. AgileHRO predicts a rise in “borderless talent acquisition” strategies, where companies utilize remote work flexibility and invest in reskilling and upskilling programs to attract and retain top talent from a global pool. This not only bridges the skills gap but also future-proofs the workforce.
    5. Well-being at the Forefront: Prioritizing Mental Health in the Evolving Workplace
    Compared to other regions, Asia grapples with significantly higher rates of low work productivity, anxiety, and depression. A TELUS Health report highlights this as a “growing concern” for workplace well-being in the region. With a work productivity score of just 47.2 compared to the global average of 58.2 (and significantly lower than the US and Europe), prioritizing mental health is no longer optional for APAC organizations.
    Companies that create supportive work environments that prioritize employee well-being will have a significant competitive edge. Implementing flexible work arrangements, offering comprehensive mental health resources, and fostering a culture of open communication are key to achieving this. Certis’ 2022 Employee Assistant Programme, which provides mental health resources and support to all employees and their families, serves as a commendable example.
    Actionable Insights:

    Implement flexible work arrangements that cater to individual needs and help employees achieve a healthy work-life balance.
    Offer comprehensive mental health resources, including access to employee assistance programs (EAPs) and confidential counseling services.
    Foster a culture of open communication where employees feel comfortable discussing mental health challenges without fear of stigma.
    Promote healthy habits and well-being initiatives, such as mindfulness training and stress management workshops.

    The future of work in Asia-Pacific is brimming with exciting possibilities. By embracing innovation, agility, and a human-centric approach, talent acquisition, recruitment, HR, and employer branding professionals can navigate this transformative landscape and build a future-proof workforce that thrives in the years to come.
    AgileHRO is a leading provider of innovative HR solutions, empowering organizations to build, manage, and engage a global workforce.
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    Revitalizing Workplace Morale: Innovative Tactics for Boosting Employee Engagement in 2024

    This year it has become increasingly evident that the success of any organization hinges upon its most valuable asset: its people. As the modern workforce continues to evolve, it’s imperative that employers acknowledge the pivotal role employees play, particularly when it comes to the success of their companies. One pressing issue that demands attention and has the power to threaten profitability right now is employee satisfaction.
    Recent studies show that job satisfaction ratings are shockingly low, with nearly 22% of professionals describing their job satisfaction as excellent. This distressing figure dwindles further to 13% among non-supervisory employees. This stark contrast underscores the pressing need for employers to address the growing dissatisfaction among their workforce.
    To reinvigorate workplace morale and supercharge employee engagement, organizations must take a people-centric approach to achieving their desired results, and prioritize employee well-being and satisfaction as a strategic contribution to long term success.
    Well-Being Over Salary
    In recent years, it has become clear that people are placing a heavy importance on work-life balance. Surprisingly, well-being has taken precedence over salary as the top contributor to job satisfaction with more employees seeking balance between their professional and personal lives.
    Outdated views of traditional success, solely measured by financial compensation, are evolving and organizations that recognize the significance of fostering environments where employees can flourish both inside and outside the office are better equipped to attract and retain talent. By developing innovative policies – such as flexible work hours, remote work options, enhanced leave policies, and upskilling, reskilling programs – organizations can create more inclusive and adaptable workplace culture. These types of initiatives not only benefit individual employees but also promote a diverse and engaged workforce.
    Embracing the concept of success as a multifaceted endeavor that includes personal growth, work-life balance and skill development aligns with the changing dynamics of the workforce. As a result, forward thinking companies are not only investing in their employees’ professional development but also in their overall well-being, leading to increased loyalty, productivity and revenue.
    Redefining Performance Reviews
    Standard performance reviews aren’t cutting it as new data strongly supports creating new standards to evaluate employee performance as annual or semi-annual reviews no longer align with the pace of most workplaces. Instead, to cultivate a sense of engagement and transparency, more frequent and goal-oriented performance reviews prove more effective for both employees and managers alike. Instead of waiting months to provide feedback, organizations are shifting toward continuous performance assessments, allowing for real-time adjustments, growth, and development.
    It is crucial to create awareness of an individual’s impact on company goals and their peers. By shifting away from merely evaluating an individual’s performance to assessing an employee’s impact, you can help connect their work to strategic priorities and those around them. People who discuss their effects on overall objectives and peers are 2x more likely to rate the performance of the organizations as excellent and to feel recognized by leaders.
    Fostering Inclusivity and Cultural Harmony
    Despite being at the forefront of the larger corporate agenda for some time now, many diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) initiatives still miss the mark when it comes to creating truly inclusive environments. A glaring issue is the notable lack of focus on empathy, which can have a detrimental impact on an organization’s culture and morale.
    To have an inclusive workplace, one that emphasizes belonging, business leaders need to break down the walls that stereotypes have built. Successful DEI programs excel in cultivating a culture that fosters open, sincere, and introspective conversations. These are the types of dialogues that can amplify eagerness and motivation to collaborate—enhancing overall engagement, retention, and success. But oftentimes, it can be difficult to have these conversations. To combat this, organizations need to ensure their workplace is that of an outward mindset, one where individuals can develop a genuine appreciation for diversity and actively seek ways to dismantle systemic barriers.
    To truly change an organizational culture, leaders need to address the harmful beliefs and behaviors that hold people back. By shifting mindsets, organizations can pave the way for real change to create inclusive workplaces that embrace diverse perspectives and make everyone feel valued and included.
    Embracing Collaborative Technology
    With remote and hybrid work arrangements becoming the new norm, these changes present a need for effective collaboration in a dispersed workforce. Organizations must embrace collaborative technology that empowers employees to work seamlessly whether they are in office, working fully remote or somewhere in between.
    Tools, including video conferencing platforms, project management software, and virtual whiteboards, are essential for fostering productive teamwork across physical boundaries. As well, encouraging a culture of digital collaboration through providing training and resources is essential to maximize the potential of these technologies. Effective collaboration not only enhances productivity but can reinforce a sense of unity and engagement among employees, regardless of their physical location.
    Cultivating a Positive Culture
    More than a buzzword, crafting a positive company culture can be a catalyst for employee engagement and productivity. United by shared values, a sense of belonging, and a greater focus on well-being, employees are more likely to feel motivated and committed to their work and the organization’s goals. A sense of purpose can significantly diminish feelings of isolation, or alienation and can make the workplace a more fulfilling environment.
    Revitalizing workplace morale in the year ahead will require outside the box thinking and tactics like prioritizing of work-life balance, fostering empathy-centric DEI initiatives, redefining performance reviews, embracing collaborative technology and the cultivation of positive cultures to propel companies toward a brighter future of increased employee engagement and satisfaction. By embracing people-centric approaches, organizations can create workplace environments where employees are not only productive but also genuinely fulfilled.
    The Arbinger Institute is the innovator of leadership and professional development that empowers leaders to transform their organization’s culture to achieve lasting business results. 
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    6 Workplace Wellbeing Trends that Will Continue to Rise in 2024 

    According to our 2023 Healthier Nation Index, 44 percent of us said our jobs had negatively impacted our mental health at some point this year.
    Employers have a responsibility to help individuals manage both their physical and mental wellbeing. But it’s clear businesses still need to work harder to provide targeted support to their employees.
    But the good news is that changes in the corporate world are trying to make this possible. Previous Nuffield Health research showed that 2 in 3 businesses offer physical and mental wellbeing to their workplaces.
    With this in mind, I suggest six workplace wellbeing trends we can expect to see grow in prominence in 2024.
    #1 Workplace ergonomics
    Our 2023 Healthier Nation Index showed that 36 percent have taken time off work due to musculoskeletal issues, which shows there’s a significant need for physical wellbeing support in the workplace.
    As we move into a more permanent hybrid work set-up in 2024, we’ll see the development of specialist programs and more technological innovations as potential solutions to improve workplace efficiency and prevent MSDs.
    For example, wearable technologies like exoskeletons are revolutionary mechanical frames that a worker can wear to support and protect the body from the strain of arduous work. Research shows they can offload up to 40 percent of a load, and reduce the labor required by muscles.
    Virtual reality is also on the rise, as it can assist in employee training by simulating work environments and helping employees identify workplace hazards.
    Away from tech and innovations, it’s vital for employees and employers to note their legal requirements to provide a provision at work and at home including desk and DSE assessments.
    #2 Shifting organizational values.
    Research shows the hybrid work model has been forecasted to rise to 81 percent adoption, with Gen Z amongst its most enthusiastic supporters.
    In the past, we may have seen resistance to such demands from businesses, but now, more than ever, employers are working on ways to stay open to employee suggestions and adapt work models accordingly.
    We’ll see more of this in 2024, which highlights that workplaces are beginning to understand the importance of ensuring workers are satisfied across the board rather than just adequately remunerated.
    Companies will continue to focus on how to improve work/life balance, wellness, intellectual challenge, and personal growth and development.
    #3 Non-negotiable self-care
    According to our research, only 15 percent of us take more time to focus on self-care, when trying to support our mental health. Self-care time has traditionally been reserved for outside work hours, like a morning walk or a hot bath at night.
    However, work is invariably intertwined with our life routines, and it’s becoming clear to businesses that weaving moments of self-care throughout the day will be more beneficial to employees than grinding through a hard day and leaving their “me” time for later.
    In 2024, we’ll see more businesses encouraging their employees to educate themselves on their self-care needs. More will provide employees with helpful tools or sessions that encourage them to slow down and breathe.
    Whether it’s introducing company mindfulness sessions, inviting in experts to teach individuals about different self-care practices or researching new ideas that could potentially benefit the whole team, building awareness will be key to many businesses next year.
    #4. Inclusive wellness initiatives
    Workplace wellness is for everyone, and in 2024, diversity and inclusion efforts will continue to extend to wellness programs.
    Many businesses are starting to rethink their benefits offerings to promote fairness, equal opportunity and prevent burnout. For example, is offering a subsidized gym membership a benefit if employees are not located near a gym or able to afford the reduced membership?
    To address such disparities, gathering feedback from employees is essential. Understanding their unique needs and challenges allows tailoring benefits to address immediate concerns.
    In 2024, there’ll be a heightened focus on ensuring that every employee, regardless of background or abilities, has access to the support and resources they need to thrive.
    #5 Reducing financial stress.
    Our 2023 Healthier Nation Index revealed 59 percent of individuals believed the cost of living or a change in personal finances had negatively impacted their mental health over the past year.
    Financial worries can significantly impact mental health, and without effective support, mental health conditions can affect a person’s confidence and identity at work.
    More businesses will adapt their wellness offerings to enable employees to cut costs where they can. For example, offering flexible work options, like remote work, flexible hours, or compressed workweeks, can help employees better manage their schedules and save on commuting costs.
    There’ll also be a greater focus on offering childcare benefits or access to discounted childcare services, which will also support employees in managing the high costs associated with childcare.
    #6 NOT sleeping on the job.
    Our Healthier Nation Index highlighted that poor sleep is still a huge issue across the nation. On average, Brits are only getting 5.91 hours of sleep a night, this is down from 6.11 in 2022 and 6.19 in 2021.
    There still exists a vital need for employers to be more attuned to the sleep needs of their staff and the potential role it has in improving employees’ physical and emotional wellbeing if businesses prioritize its importance.
    In 2024, more companies will collaboratively engage with their healthcare partners to bolster sleep education and the relevant employee benefits needed to support those struggling.
    We believe more businesses will provide wellbeing support through external services like cognitive behavioral therapy, an effective therapeutic therapy for insomnia. CBT-I considers how your thoughts and beliefs about sleep may influence your sleep behaviors, examines behaviors and habits around sleep, and introduces techniques like relaxation and sleep restriction.
    By Marc Holl, Head of Primary Care at Nuffield Health.
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    The Unspoken Privilege of Wellbeing During the Cost-of-Living Crisis

    The surge in the cost of living is deeply impacting both workers and businesses, as the escalating prices of vital commodities and services add to financial strain and psychological stress.
    A substantial 47 percent of UK employees revealed they have minimal to zero savings remaining by the close of each month. Furthermore, an additional 15 percent indicated their households encountered difficulties covering monthly expenses.
    Numerous employers are taking proactive measures to assist employees amidst escalating costs. After a demanding two years contending with the Covid-19 pandemic, a silver lining emerged: an enhanced emphasis on employee benefits and their significance to the workforce during that difficult period.
    With the cost-of-living crisis causing further issues for employees, there has never been a better time for companies to recommunicate their benefits offerings to assist staff through another increasingly uncertain and stressful time.
    However, according to research, today’s benefits appeal mostly to the highly paid, but further research shows there is a strong business case to provide employee benefits that demonstrate diversity and inclusion.
    I address some of the assumptions workplaces might make about employee wellbeing, why they are problematic, and how to provide support during the cost-of-living crisis.
    Why does the cost-of-living crisis impact the workplace?
    Nuffield Health’s 2023 Healthier Nation Index revealed 59 percent of individuals believed the cost of living or a change in personal finances had negatively impacted their mental health over the past year.
    Mental health can be significantly impacted by financial worries, and without effective support, mental health conditions can affect a person’s confidence and identity at work. The ability to concentrate and work productively can decline, and businesses may report an increase in absenteeism and presenteeism among those struggling.
    Another issue employers might face is staff taking up second jobs to meet their increased outgoings. Research shows 5.2 million workers have taken on an additional position to help pay for the increased cost of living, and another 10 million plan to, in response to rising costs.
    Employees working all hours to try and meet basic needs could easily result in fatigue and burnout. And as we all know, tired, anxious, and exhausted employees do not equate to healthy, productive teams.
    Workplace burnout may impair short-term memory, attention, and other cognitive processes essential for daily work activities, making employees significantly less productive. Burnt-out employees are also 63 percent more likely to take a sick day and 2.6 times as likely to be actively seeking a different job.
    Keen for self-care
    More businesses are encouraging employees to prioritise self-care during these challenging times. While well-intentioned, financial instability is making it difficult for employees to afford basic necessities, let alone invest in self-care activities or wellness-related expenses.
    Those working irregular or unpredictable schedules, find it near impossible to plan and commit to self-care activities. The reality for many, especially those in lower-paid or high pressure roles, is that they can’t simply take breaks, when they feel like it or need it from stressful jobs.
    Those in marginalised groups face much more than just work stress too. Compared to other economic classes, they are more likely to face exposure to crime, drug-saturated neighbourhoods, and overcrowded residences.
    Lower-income employees may not have access to the same resources that higher-income employees do, like fitness facilities, healthy food options, and mental health services.
    Nutrient-dense foods are also now too expensive for many households to afford. A recent study estimated that lower-income families would need to dedicate a whopping 43-70 percent of their food budget to fruits and vegetables to meet dietary guidelines.
    Where do we go from here?
    It’s clear the ongoing stress associated with living with less than one needs can create constant wear and tear on the body. This, in turn, disrupts and harms the body’s physiological stress response mechanism while also diminishing cognitive and psychological responses essential for confronting challenges and daily stressors.
    Many businesses pride themselves on offering a suite of perks for employees, which they claim will help those during particularly difficult times, like the ongoing cost-of-living crisis. However, our 2022 data actually suggests that 1 in 3 employees are offered no physical or mental wellbeing services by their employer.
    We believe responsible businesses should offer these services to their staff. Those who don’t already should invest in the health of their employees by speaking to expert health third-party providers who can guide them on the best offerings to introduce.
    For the two-thirds of businesses that do offer employee benefits, it’s worth noting some of these might not be accessible or suitable to all employees. For example, is offering a subsidised gym membership a benefit if employees are not located near a gym or are able to afford the reduced membership?
    Managers need to fundamentally rethink their benefits offerings to promote fairness and equal opportunity and prevent burnout. When deciding which to offer – specifically during a cost-of-living crisis- it’s essential to gather feedback from employees to understand their unique needs and challenges. Tailoring benefits to address their immediate concerns can have a significant positive impact on their well-being and loyalty to an organisation.
    Providing employees with fair and competitive wages is one of the most direct ways to address financial challenges related to the cost of living. A living wage can help employees cover their basic needs without having to struggle as much financially.
    Investing in employees’ professional development through tuition reimbursement or training opportunities can help them start to build the skills needed for potential higher-paying roles, which they may be able to apply for more quickly in the future.
    Making sure you provide access to relevant benefits is also key. For example, offering flexible work options, like remote work, flexible hours, or compressed workweeks, can help employees better manage their schedules and save on commuting costs.
    However, if employees’ roles do require them to be physically in the workplace, perhaps your business might consider providing transportation benefits instead, like subsidised public transportation passes, which can help alleviate commuting costs. Offering childcare benefits or access to discounted childcare services can also help employees manage the high costs associated with childcare during a cost-of-living crisis.
    Where signs of burnout, financial stress, or anxiety are recognised, employers should signpost employees towards the emotional wellbeing support available to them. This may include Employee Assistance Programmes (EAPs) or cognitive behavioural therapy sessions (CBT), which give individuals direct access to a specialist who can help them explore and understand the factors which are impacting their health and wellbeing.
    Communicate helpful resources like where to apply for monetary support, how to access debt management helplines or find financial literacy programmes. Regardless of whether this support comes from an external resource or from your own company’s offerings, this advice can empower employees to make informed decisions about budgeting, saving, and managing their finances.
    Additionally, highlighting community resources, government programmes, and nonprofit organisations can help employees find accessible self-care resources if they have limited financial means.
    During these challenging times, employees want to know their employer has their best interests at heart. Wellbeing is tied to feeling valued and appreciated, and it’s essential our colleagues are met with understanding and assistance every step of the way.
    By Marc Holl, Head of Primary Care, Nuffield Health.
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    Leveraging AI for Employee Mental Wellbeing

    As organizations strive to attract and retain top talent, it’s crucial to recognize the potential of artificial intelligence (AI) in supporting employee mental wellbeing.
    Going beyond its role as a productivity tool, there’s untapped potential in AI to support employee mental health in the workplace. But how safe is it to hand over such responsibility to AI? And when should human intervention take place?
    In the modern workplace, mental health has gained significant recognition for its importance. Employers now understand that the wellbeing of their employees extends beyond physical health. Mental health plays a crucial role in overall productivity, engagement, and success. For the newest generation entering the workforce today, mental health support is a must, not a nice to have.
    Prioritizing mental health in the workplace is essential because it directly impacts employee wellbeing and happiness. A positive and supportive work environment that promotes mental wellbeing fosters a sense of belonging, reduces stress levels, and improves job satisfaction.
    The role of AI in workplace mental wellbeing
    AI-powered solutions, such as virtual assistants, have the potential to revolutionize mental wellbeing support in the workplace. However, there are currently no tools dedicated to mental health support. While there are anecdotal instances of people using the likes of ChatGPT for support, the tool isn’t designed for such use cases. As such, there is a need for generative AI capabilities to be utilized in a considered way to ensure appropriate measures are in place to enhance the user experience.
    The challenge in creating an AI-enabled assistant for mental health support lies in ensuring that it is designed by individuals who possess a deep understanding of the intricacies of therapy and coaching practices. Developing an AI-powered assistant that can effectively provide support, guidance, and empathy requires a comprehensive knowledge of psychological principles and therapeutic techniques.
    To create an AI-enabled assistant that can engage in meaningful and effective conversations, developers must work closely with clinicians who have a profound understanding of various therapeutic techniques. This includes Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), which is widely recognized as an effective treatment for a range of mental health concerns.
    This understanding enables the AI-powered assistant to follow evidence-based practices and techniques that promote positive change and empower users to overcome challenges.
    Building an AI assistant dedicated to mental wellbeing
    With these challenges in mind, I could see an opportunity to develop an AI-assisted tool specifically designed for mental wellbeing. Not only this, but a mental health support tool that could be deployed in the workplace, bringing the benefits of AI that leverages therapeutic best practices to employees and employers alike.
    As part of this process, I set the following requirements for such an AI-enabled assistant:

    Ethical guidelines: Align AI systems with internationally recognised ethical guidelines for psychological practice to ensure user privacy, data protection, and confidentiality.
    Compliance: Follow relevant data protection and privacy laws to safeguard user data and maintain transparency in data collection and usage.
    Robust algorithm design: Develop AI algorithms that prioritise user wellbeing and avoid biases that could perpetuate harm or discrimination.
    Human oversight: Establish clear protocols for when AI should hand over to human professionals, such as during critical or complex mental health situations.

    Following months of work, the result was EMMA, an artificial intelligence-powered virtual assistant for mental health and personal growth support.
    Harnessing the power of Azure Cognitive Services and generative AI, combined with our own advanced sentiment analysis, EMMA provides immediate always-on support, encouragement, and guidance for a range of mental health concerns and personal development goals, through text-based conversations.
    Attracting and retaining talent with AI-powered mental wellbeing
    This development is great news for employees, but how can it help with the recruitment process? Well, I believe organisations that prioritise employee wellbeing and leverage innovative solutions like AI can differentiate themselves in the talent market.
    Prospective employees are increasingly seeking employers that genuinely care about their mental health. So, highlighting the availability of AI-powered mental wellbeing support during the recruitment process can showcase an organisation’s commitment to employee wellness, attracting top talent who value a supportive work environment.
    AI-enabled tools can also play a pivotal role in fostering a positive work culture that promotes employee wellbeing. By offering constant support, guidance, and resources, AI-powered assistants create an environment where employees feel valued, supported, and understood. This can contribute to increased job satisfaction, engagement, and loyalty, ultimately reducing turnover and enhancing the overall work experience.
    Of course, addressing mental wellbeing concerns through AI-enabled support can significantly impact employee performance and productivity. When employees feel supported and access resources that enhance their mental wellbeing, they are better equipped to manage stress, maintain focus, and bring their best selves to work. This, in turn, helps to improve individual and team productivity, leading to better overall organizational performance.
    AI-enabled tools truly offer significant potential for supporting employee mental wellbeing in the workplace, making it valuable for talent attraction and retention. By embracing the role of AI as a tool for human enhancement, organizations can create workplaces where individuals thrive and reach their full potential.
    By Asim Amin, Founder and CEO of Plumm.
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    5 Ways Workplace Bonding Improves Employee Satisfaction 

    For many working professionals, the workplace is like a second family. And even though remote working has put a damper on the process, many workers today still think of the workplace as the place to create lifelong relationships and forge friendships.
    That’s why many companies today are enabling and encouraging workplace bonding. It has now become an essential part of the organization’s culture. It significantly improves employee satisfaction and is critical to an organization’s retention plan.
    Furthermore, since today’s hectic lifestyle leaves very little time for self-rejuvenation, workplace bonding can help reduce worker burnout and allow employees to improve their work-life balance.
    Here’s how workplace bonding can positively affect workforce morale and improve employee satisfaction.
    1. Reduces worker stress
    Everyone feels job-related stress once in a while. However, regular stress can be problematic and cause long-term problems. That’s why it’s important to create policies to combat it from an organizational point of view.
    Strong interpersonal bonds among teams can enable employees to cope with workplace stress and reduce anxiety. Furthermore, they can also reduce issues related to workforce demotivation and loneliness.
    2. Improves overall well-being
    Employees that don’t fit into the company’s culture feel social isolation, which can have an adverse effect on their mental and emotional health.
    Bonding with fellow coworkers can fix this issue and allow such employees to fit into a company’s culture. In addition, it can also help organizational leaders to build a culture of open communication and optimize employees’ work-life balance. Such organizations see improved communication and efficient collaboration between teams.
    3. Increases employee morale
    Strong employee relationships can significantly increase team morale and motivate employees to perform better. This increased emotional support instills a feeling of positivity in the team, leading to performance improvements, boosted sense of accomplishment, and increased focus.
    Simple social interaction can also improve employees’ sense of control over their working environment. This reduces workplace accidents and creates a relaxed working environment
    4. Supports better innovation from existing employees
    As mentioned above, interpersonal bonding leads to a relaxed working environment. And in a relaxed working environment, it is easy to accomplish tasks and optimize processes. Employees who don’t feel stressed can easily work on new ideas and derive inspiration from each other. They can also understand complex concepts and work toward simplifying complicated procedures.
    Employees who are not overwhelmed with day-to-day tasks can also generate and share business insights, which is another way to increase innovation through auxiliary help. Such ideas can also be patented for substantial financial rewards by the employer.
    5. Improves employee-management engagement
    Companies with good interpersonal relationships between employees see positive employee-management engagements. Such employees develop trusting relationships with their leaders and work toward a common goal.
    A culture of open communication is beneficial to both employees and management. Employees can use the newfound information to understand management perspectives better and grow their careers. The management can use this influx of information for organizational growth and idea brainstorming.
    This cannot happen where there is a superficial relationship between the team and management. For this to work, the supervisors and employees must communicate better and share observations.
    6. Creates a more helpful working environment
    Negative emotions between team members can lead to stress and dysfunction. On the other hand, a team that is built on meaningful employee relationships is motivated to provide guidance and support to its team members. Such team members also share knowledge and experiences with each other.
    This is very useful for new joiners since it allows them to access the knowledge and skills of experienced team members for efficient knowledge transfer. In addition, since team members are better suited to understand each other’s emotional requirements than management, they are also better positioned to provide job role–related knowledge and support.
    Furthermore, a helpful and engaged team can help team members realize their full potential. Such units can also create better workflows for their department.
    7. Increases worker retention
    This is one of the most significant advantages of encouraging better relationships between employees. Employees who are friends with each other engage in much more frequent and personal interactions. Such employees use a collaborative approach to working and developing better interpersonal relationships
    Since employees with better interpersonal relationships are relaxed and satisfied in their job-role, they continue working for the same organization for many years. This can lead to great retention statistics, significantly lowering business costs.
    How do you aid interpersonal relationships between employees?
    As a company, creating a culture of interpersonal relationships can be challenging. This change has to start from the root, i.e., employees themselves have to create a working environment where everyone feels comfortable sharing the details of their lives with each other. However, you can do a few things from a manager’s perspective to improve interpersonal interaction and facilitate team bonding.
    For example, you can schedule weekly corporate lunch sessions to improve bonding and build a culture of harmony. This can also be done on an inter-team basis, i.e., managers can schedule lunches with different teams to improve inter-team bonding. Such measures can help employees develop social relationships outside their current teams.
    Leaders can also use activities such as quizzes and professional workshops to inculcate a feeling of collaborative learning. The latter activity can also help employees grow their skills and climb up the corporate ladder.
    For a remote setup, you can create Slack and Mattermost channels that can enable different teams to collaborate digitally. You can also use these channels to motivate employees through recognition and rewards programs.
    Lastly, you can arrange infrastructure for your remote teams to collaborate if required. For example, some companies have started using coworking spaces as local hubs to connect their collocated team members.
    Workplace relationships are a crucial part of an employee’s well-being. They can serve as emotional support systems, improve work-life balance and encourage inter-team harmony.
    Bonding between coworkers is also a great way to reduce stress and stimulate innovation. Companies that invest in employee bonding can see significant productivity and create a positive working environment for their employees.
    BairesDev is the leading nearshore technology solutions company with 4,000+ professionals in 50+ countries representing the top 1% of tech talent.
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    5 Ways Employers Can Support Redundancy Survivors

    Mention the word redundancy and people inevitably think of the unfortunate individuals who are let go from their roles – and rightly so. Being on the receiving end of redundancy can be a life-altering experience professionally, financially and emotionally.
    But the effects of redundancies are felt more widely than simply by those who leave the organization. In the aftermath of a redundancy program, what happens to the people left in the workplace – the survivors? And how can employers ensure they get the support they need?
    1. Scratch beneath the surface
    For employees still in their roles, on the surface, nothing has changed. They still have paid employment and don’t have to go through the upheaval of finding and settling into a new job. They’ll avoid the need to worry about their rent or mortgage payments if they cannot find employment before their redundancy pay runs out, with all the associated stress it would cause.
    After any redundancy program is complete, the employees who survived will initially likely feel a sense of relief. But the feelings that follow may cause them sleepless nights or worse. They might feel survivor’s guilt, but that may be the tip of the iceberg.
    Whether through overreaching, poor performance, or a takeover, the need for redundancies shines a light on the health of the business. Common thinking may go that if the company is in such dire straits that it needs to make redundancies, it may not be able to turn its fortunes around and become successful again. This may lead to more pressure to perform well – even if only self-imposed. Change can be stressful, especially when inflicted rather than by choice. There might be anxiety around the potential reshuffling to address gaps made by those who have left and concern around the potential for workloads to increase.
    How a manager looks after their remaining employees may well make the difference between the business merely surviving and actively thriving in the future.
    2. Respect the fear
    It’s commonly the case that once the redundancy process is over, the people left behind fear for their position within the company. They no longer feel safe and secure in their employment which is a difficult time for employers. Fear can be a great motivator, and the time after redundancies is often when people look around for a job that feels more secure or are open to being poached by competitors.
    Word of a company’s redundancies will be out worldwide, and other employers may have been keeping tabs on the situation. While this can work in favor of people who have been let go, it can spell disaster for the surviving team, already operating in the shadow of uncertainty and rocked by the recent departure of colleagues. Further employee churn is a major risk, with staff potentially following their former colleagues into a competitor’s ranks.
    For an employer to avoid too many resignations following a redundancy program, the best place to start is by listening. Whether on a one-to-one basis or through an employee opinion survey, hearing from the survivors is the only true way of discovering the remaining employees’ morale. Listening to their fears and concerns is crucial to addressing them – and setting them on a more positive path.
    3. Understand grieving
    If working relationships were close and productive, there might be a sense almost akin to bereavement for survivors. Employees will be grieving the loss of their colleagues, and, like any loss, these feelings can be compounded by their fear of what’s next or the stress of altered workloads.
    The emotional impact of missing a friend or colleague can be doubled by the impact of more work. If this is work that redundant colleagues previously undertook, it can feel like insult added to injury. This may be a step too far for survivors, resulting in increased rates of absence due to sickness. Like an elastic band, emotional resilience can only stretch so far – when it becomes too stretched, it will break.
    Monitoring absences and the reasons for them becomes crucial to understanding the pressures employees are facing. A good redundancy program should also include implementing or increasing mental health support for staff. If an employer lacks the resources to provide this support directly, they can provide advice and guidance on external help that might be available to the survivors.
    4. Remember every employee
    In the turmoil of a redundancy program and its aftermath, the focus typically falls on the staff let go and the survivors. But what is often overlooked is the wellbeing of the managers who have taken responsibility for the redundancies that have occurred.
    Much of the workload falls on managers, and due to their position, they are exposed to the stress of the process from every direction. But managers are also employees and may be grieving the loss of friends and colleagues, too, not to mention coping with feelings of guilt.
    It’s important for employers not to overlook managers and the help and support they might need. They will feel the strain if they previously managed a tight-knit and effective team and now have to regroup with fewer staff but a similar workload.
    It might be as simple as a forum where they can talk to other managers in the same position or something more in-depth like counseling. Whatever the response, they need the same support, encouragement and friendly ear as other survivors, as well as a sight of future opportunities.
    5. Shift the focus
    Good business leaders will always have a vision of where they want their business to be, its goals, and objectives. Hopefully, this vision has played a big part in the planning and rationale for the redundancy program, and has already been communicated to staff – both those who were made redundant and those who remain. Now that the business is dealing with the aftermath of those redundancies, there’s never been a more important time to double down on that vision.
    If employers are able to share their vision with the survivors effectively, it will give them an insight into what their future with your organization might look like and the opportunities available to them.
    With internal communications so crucial, this is the time for employers to build and improve their methods of engagement with their employees. Rewarding staff for innovation, celebrating their successes, or even considering long-term retention bonuses to critical employees can all form part of a concerted strategic effort to rebuild momentum.
    Creating a culture where everyone feels like they’re in it together, with shared goals and hopes, will enable employers to gradually shift the focus from a difficult chapter to an exciting future where every employee feels valued and can see the opportunities and better times on the horizon.
    Jill Aburrow (FCIPD) has more than 30 years’ experience in HR. She is the founder of Heartfelt HR and author of ‘Redundancy With Love: Getting it right for your people and your business’.
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