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Worker Well-being and Personalisation in the Workplace

14, February,

The events of 2020 have left a profound and lasting impact on workplaces worldwide. Corporations have had to redesign their work models, banks and fintech players have had to upturn their best practices completely, established organizations are struggling to meet post-Covid 19 employee expectations, and of course, online platforms such as Zoom, Teams and Google Meet have become the upgrade companies are investing in. 

Underlying these changes is the common principle of ensuring that a company's employees remain steady, stable and productive. Worker satisfaction was rated as the #2 priority for start-ups in a survey conducted to identify the learnings from the pandemic and beyond. Bested only by the need for digitalization, the workers' well-being has become a table stake for organizations as they realize that their business will suffer without happy people. 

In the last decade, the shift to employee satisfaction (from the more traditional output-based goals in companies) had already begun, with internal and international competitions, rewards and benefits for achievers and sustained plans to keep employees intact and productive. However, the carrot and the stick approach, which typically nudges such reward programs along, can only go so far in pushing competitiveness. It ultimately leaves behind anyone who does not wish to participate but wants to be acknowledged for their job done well. 

Today, as the WFH (Work from Home) and the WFA (Work from Anywhere) models have become the forced norm in small and big offices the world over, innovation in employee satisfaction must include flexibility at the heart of operations, genuinely open-plan workspaces and a support system to cater to all manners of needs the employees may express. 

Here are a few top changes that have occurred and are occurring in workplace environments:

The typical 'workday' no longer applies. Old fashioned 9 to 5s have given way to flexible working hours, a change that can now include naturally nocturnal people and those with other demands such as raising young children or caring for dependents at home. 

The worker's inner and outer health is within their control more than ever before, with their having better access to healthcare, better management of personal grievances, and a more comprehensive network of support from internal HR to (at times) outsourced expertise. 

Floating desks, standing desks and couch tables are all part of the new office space. With people working from home, makeshift offices, garages and even their kitchens, the cubicle is no longer confined to three bland fabricated walls and a fitted desk. post-it notes on the fridge have replaced vision boards, and the water cooler is just a bottle of water perspiring on the coffee table next to the coffee next to the pizza that was ordered for lunch. People are resilient, and this challenging year has brought out the best of resilience in workers who have kept the work alive and well.

Personal development, a superset of mental and physical well-being, has become a regular part of HR check-ins. Typical conversations include medical checkups, retirement plans, savings, vacations, children and school, and mental health. Broaching such topics enables workers to feel genuinely valued by the company and the employer and gradually strengthens their careers' longevity. 

Upgraded office spaces with fitness centers, healthy eating kiosks (sometimes sponsored by healthy foods brands and/or locally sourced green vendors and start-ups) bring about measurable changes to the overall health factor of workers. A Gallup research revealed an increased efficacy in employees who engaged with physical wellness programs at work. 

Enabling workers to express themselves individually, whether by giving a bit of leeway in what they wear to addressing larger issues such as sexual identity and gender preferences, is still a path few companies are taking. Established names in most industries, with acute exceptions such as fashion, design and entertainment, have had notoriously bad runs in becoming more inclusive and welcoming to different identities. This remains one of the most significant issues that need tackling on a grander scale. However, with newer generations taking up more prominent positions in every field, this will hopefully be the next big problem solved and resolved for good. 

Worker well-being has come a long way from the days when a little lunch hour ceremony at the end of the year with the boss announcing the employee of the month and handing out funny (and at times, insulting) 'titles' to other team members would count as the year-end event. Organizations are ever on the lookout for more creative solutions -installing photo booths to boost happiness in the workplace, giving free bicycles to employees to get around a large office campus, gifting month-long holidays to employees completing five years with the company and so on. 

Hopefully, the new age will encounter more robust and all-encompassing measures to ensure and implement sound care for all employees. Rewards don't always have to come in the shape of monetary benefits, and in the years to come, one might even see HR being responsible for recognizing an employee's exceptional singing talent and encouraging them to explore that avenue as something they will genuinely enjoy. After all, if it inspires happiness in a worker, satisfaction will ultimately be carried back into their work.