Four 2022 wellness predictions that non-executive directors need to know about

The pandemic has had an impact on how we live our lives and the things we value. It has also produced dramatic technological growth in businesses and shaped the attitudes of workers, investors and business leaders. 

We looked at the key emerging trends non-executive directors (NEDs) need to keep in mind in 2022, particularly in relation to wellbeing. 

This article was written by Sharon Critchlow, Director at Discover Your Bounce, a workplace wellbeing provider, and co-lead of Transpire’s People, Culture & Wellbeing Faculty.

The rise in the importance of wellbeing at work

The annual survey of Health and Wellbeing at Work was released by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) in April 2021. Did you know? 

  • 68% of private sector businesses say that employee wellbeing is on senior leaders’ agenda. This compares to 83% in the public sector and 82% of non-profits. 
  • 47% of businesses in the private sector have a wellbeing strategy, this compares to 37% in 2020, demonstrating its increase in importance.
  • Health insurance and protection initiatives are more common in the private sector. However, employee support schemes and monitoring absence are more common in the public sector. 

The world of work is certainly changing with partial working from home looking to become the norm for many office workers. 

What other trends are emerging as 2021 comes to an end? 

Four predictions for the next 12 months

1. Increase in mental health issues

Whether this is a real increase or existing conditions and pandemic-related problems are becoming more apparent, we believe that mental health is on the agenda for 2021 and 2022. 

In fact, three in five companies have reported an increase in mental health concerns in the past year. 

Our concern is that genuine mental health needs are not spotted and supported due to a lack of knowledge or experience in this area. 

Facts behind the prediction:

  • According to the CIPD survey, 83% of businesses in the private sector are increasing their focus on mental health and 73% are looking to take steps to address stress in the workplace. 
  • 88% of public sector organisations are looking to increase focus on mental health in 2021 and 89% are taking steps to address stress, which is 16% more than in the private sector. 

2. Focus on cultural change, engagement and leadership

How we lead and having a growth culture may become more in focus because of the need to balance remote working, collaboration and pushing businesses forward. 

Managing teams – once an add on to a job – will increasingly need a skills upgrade. 

Emotional Intelligence may well be a focus for personal development as organisations seek to create more empathetic leaders who can function well in a remote environment. 

Facts behind the prediction:

  • Organisations who fail to create a personal connection between them and their staff will start to lag. According to research by Garton and Mankins, an engaged employee is 45% more productive than a merely satisfied worker. 
  • What is more interesting is that an inspired employee (one who has a profound personal connection to their work or company) is 55% more productive than an engaged employee and more than twice as productive as a satisfied worker. 

Put simply, the better an organisation is at engaging and inspiring its employees, the better its performance. 

  • The productivity gap between the best and the rest has widened during the pandemic. Garton and Mankins estimate that the best companies — those that were already effective in managing the time, talent, and energy of their teams — have grown 5% to 8% more productive over the last 12 months. 
  • Additional work time, access to new star talent and continued engagement have bolstered productivity at these companies. 
  • Most organisations, however, have experienced a net reduction in productivity of 3% to 6% (or more) due to inefficient collaboration, wasteful ways of working and an overall decline in employee engagement. 

How we work, where we work and how we relate to each other will all be in the spotlight over the next 12 months. 

3. Re-thinking of intergenerational needs and development

The growth of flexible working looks set to continue but also will need to be balanced with intergenerational needs. 

“Gen Z is the first generation to come into the world with a digital footprint that they didn’t create themselves,” Manon DeFelice wrote in Forbes. “But their identity as a tech generation also leaves them pining for what they don’t have. There’s a social aspect about going to work that they don’t want taken away.” 

This sentiment has been reflected in conversations we have had with senior leaders across the UK. 

Older or more established workers want more home working, but without a balance to this, emerging generations will have no one experienced in the workplace from which to informally learn. As the social needs differ, as do the educational development needs. Meeting those needs at all levels will need more focus. 

Facts behind the prediction:

  • A 2019 blog by David Rook highlights the needs of different groups in the workplace 
  • A survey by CHG Healthcare found that only 9% of the workforce want to return to the office a full five days a week. It would seem that 54% are more interested in a hybrid work week and as many as one in three workers would happily spend the rest of their working lives working remotely. Whilst this is a US survey it appears to be reflected in the UK as well. 

4. The rise of financial wellbeing

Back in 2017, the CIPD reported that one in four people had money worries that affect their ability to do their job. According to the Reward & Employee Benefits Association (REBA) this is now three in five. 

The Money Advice Service also estimated that over 16 million people in the UK had less than £100 in savings when the pandemic struck. 

Company pension schemes, workplace private medical insurance etc. has been around for decades, but there is a rising need for financial planning and debt counselling in the workplace. 

The cost of providing this type of service has always been an issue but more apps are coming into the marketplace and providing a greater choice in how financial wellbeing and financial education is delivered. 

Facts behind the prediction:

  • A recent report by REBA shows that 56% of employees say they are very or somewhat stressed about their financial situation. The top three stress factors are:
    • Saving for the future 67% 
    • Paying monthly bills 57% 
    • Credit card debt 42% 
  • The Bank of America 2020 Workplace Benefits Report shows that 62% of employers feel extreme responsibility for their employees’ financial wellbeing, up from 13% in 2013. 

The reality is that money worries can lead to risky behaviour both inside and outside of the business. 

When you consider that 88% of cyber attacks occur with the help of an insider in the business, whether intentional or by accident, financial wellbeing is certainly a sensible way to help both the business and its staff. 

It helps to keep the temptation to assist an attack at bay but it also keeps people sharp and able to stop unwittingly helping an attack due to being distracted. 

Wellness is evolving from a nice to have to an essential offering

We have all endured one of the most challenging periods in modern times. Whilst the restrictions may ease, the fallout has only just begun. 

We have noticed that where it may have been considered “nice to have” a corporate wellness plan in 2018, it is clear that top talent now expects a level of care in the workplace. Many of our clients use their well-being plans as a way to attract new team members. 

2018 and 2019 had a trend towards mental health first aiders as the main workplace wellbeing project. But in 2021 and beyond many businesses are aiming towards the prevention of mental health issues and team cohesion. 

On the horizon is also Environmental Social Governance (ESG). Whilst the environment is currently in the spotlight, the “social” aspect of the business is not far behind. 

Shareholders and future employees are demanding to know more about how staff are treated to ensure it aligns with their values. Workplace culture topics from wellbeing initiatives to gender pay gap and inclusion programmes are increasingly on the agenda. 

Forward thinking organisations and NEDs recognise that getting it wrong can spread all over social media in an instant and have a wider business impact. Getting it right, on the other hand, can help attract the best talent and provide a competitive advantage.

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