Discover the Career Perks Workers Want

FindWRK Team

Categories: Worker Wellness

October 14, 2022

Post-COVID Series: Re-finding Workplace Norms and Establishing New Norms

After a long, uneasy 2+ years of facing the pandemic, work is in flux. Workplaces are flustered to adapt to the expectations of employees who have lived and adjusted to unprecedented times, and while some industries came to a halt in the height of lockdown, they are now back in full swing, navigating a new normal. With change comes angst, and if the pandemic has not opened up new vulnerabilities, it has shone the flashlight on those pre-existing workplace gaps and pressures which, after so much suffering and uncertainty, seem less tolerable. 

This is the fourth in a series of five spotlights on the experience of the worker and the employer post-pandemic, with an emphasis on mental health and wellbeing. 

What Workers Want: Why Was There a Shift?

Covid brought changing tides and with it, the great resignation; out of a bad situation, workers took their wellbeing into their own hands. In the midst of restrictions, some new forms of freedom opened up. Families had to adjust to homeschooling and more time spent in the same space and some acquired a four-legged companion to cope. In that time, workers defined the things they wanted more of and the things that they wanted to do away with. Balance became even trickier because there was a less defined start and stop for the demands of parenting, work, and leisure. As the world opened up, employees reflected and many changed their minds about what they wanted and expected from their workplace. So, what did they want?

Much of the change came from a desire to protect boundaries. During Covid, many people had their mental and physical health tested and they put up bigger barriers around their personal wellbeing and the wellbeing of their families. Maybe they started to guard a virtual hour with a therapist, or with more time for self-care, they started to resent their commute. From the outside, this can seem like a form of rebellion, but it comes from a place of self preservation. 

You can see how all this led to the Great Resignation. In the Spring and Summer of 2021, employees fled their jobs at record rates and they started to look for new ones. For some, the pandemic had changed the standards they would accept, and others were forced to move on to make ends meet when endless lockdowns took a toll on the industry. This change presented a pressure for some industries - like the restaurant industry. But in other ways, it provided the opportunity for companies to learn more about what motivated their employees and lean into the growth spurt.  

Workers emphasized that mental health benefits were top of mind. These kinds of benefits take many forms. Some mental health benefits are monetary, and others are much more about flexibility. What does this look like and why does it make a difference? Flexibility around breaks, the transfer of a shift under a tough circumstance, or re-allocating tasks to accommodate a difficult day can make all the difference for morale and motivation. You might be asking why mental health matters now, didn’t it matter before? Did the pandemic result in a higher prevalence of mental health concerns in workers? In 2021, 1 in 4 Canadians screened positive for symptoms of depression, anxiety, or post-trauamtic stress disorder, up from 1 in 5 in 2020. Mental health challenges have increased but so has awareness. People had the time and acuity to become more intimately acquainted with their mental health, and with the constant lockdowns, complex parenting dynamics, separation, fear, and isolation, it was to some extent unavoidable and they’re willing to protect it on shift. 

What Do Employees Want From Their Employers?

Here are some of the thoughts that come to mind when many employees articulate the mental health benefits they’re looking for. These benefits might not all fit neatly into the goals of your organization, but the trends are food for thought as you reflect on your relationship with your employees: 

  • Flex hours

  • Four day work week 

  • Part-time allocations

  • Flexible sick leave

  • Fitness 

  • Meditation

  • Professional development 

  • Mental health coverage

  • Family benefits

Now, it’s possible you’re thinking that these benefits don’t make or break a job. But what if they turn a quiet quitter into a solid worker? Or maybe they give an employee the chance to stabilize and get their footing back on the job. They might also refer a friend. It can seem counterintuitive at first, but by giving more to your employees, you may get more back, now and in the long run. If it feels like a pressure, just remember that not all benefits come with a cash value attached. The most meaningful mental health support may come in the form of appreciation, good mentorship, or knowing that your boss has your back if you need a little flexibility. Think about your shift expectations and how it adds or detracts from employee health on the job. Learning about your employees’ stories and how you can meet their needs is perhaps the most powerful place to start. 

How to Retain the Younger Generations

You’re thinking more about what folks want from their shift and the hiring process. So, let’s say you want to hire a Gen Z. You might want to think about what a Gen. Z. wants most from their work environment and then match those desires to the wellness benefits available in your workplace.  Remember, you may very well be doing and thinking about the things that a Gen Z. values and but when it comes down to it, you’ll get buy-in when you walt the walk. Here are some ways you can start to take action in your corporation:

  1. Flexibility is important. While there may not be work-from-home or hybrid flexibility for a kitchen or barista shift, you can have a flexible mindset. Consider team meals, flexible breaks, and a collaborative mentality to cover off needs when they come up. 

  2. Live your values. When Gen Z’s work to serve customers to the highest standard, or care for their wellbeing, they want the same values to be reflected back from their employers. Invest in the interests, personal history, and wellbeing of your employees. Curiosity and an open style of leadership is a good start. 

  3. Learning needs to be front and centre. Gen Z’s are getting a reputation as the cop-out generation but they deeply value learning and growth. Show your team you are interested in their growth areas and willing to invest in building their skills. 

  4. Diversity first. Keep in mind that diversity is essential to all things productivity, creativity, and equity. Ensure that your workplace values individuals of all backgrounds, and if possible incorporates their specific knowledge and skill set. 

  5. Lead with ethics and by example. Ensure you put your oxygen mask on first. Your employees notice the little things, how you speak to others, the way you manage a difficult situation, and your expressions when you’re not saying what’s on your mind. Take care of your needs to take care of theirs. 

How Can Your Mindset Boost Your Business?

Will it really pay off? Let’s zoom in on the example of the restaurant business. Restaurant owners who have wellbeing top of mind are getting a different buy-in. The question in the business has changed from why to why not. A pre-pandemic mindset won’t serve the staffing strategy of your restaurant today. A case study highlighted that one employee at the Grill Restaurant felt the effect of compassionate benefits. After being named employee of the quarter by the hospitality group at the Grill Restaurant, Joe-Jo Jennings was offered a trip to New York, where he stayed in a fancy hotel, ate at a three-star Michelin restaurant and saw a show on Broadway. At the time, Joe-Jo said to himself, “this is as good as it gets.” As the company continued to roll out a variety of mental health benefits, Joe-Jo reflected that they were therapeutic. “This is an extension of mental health [care],” he said. That’s what it provides me.” Another employee Suarez, commented on how for years, he wasn’t able to do the small things to take care of himself. Now, when asked about his benefits, he commented, “I just tell them I work for good people.” Benefits impact employee mentality and they can change how an employee views their workplace and their employer. 

It starts with the ability to care for themselves and it moves out like a ripple or wave. Employers are thinking broader. Walmart for instance has just given their employees access to dozens of fertility clinics across the United States.Through a partnership with a clinic network, Kindbody, Walmart will be offering financial support of up to $20,000 over a lifetime for surrogacy and adoption, fertility preservation, assessments, and education, genetic testing, mental and physical health support from preconception to postpartum, and in vitro fertilization (IVF).And according to an employee poll, fertility benefits matter so significantly to Millenials and Get Z’s, 77% of individuals would stay if a company offered fertility benefits and most would change their job for better benefits.Think about spending money this way as proactive as opposed to reactive. Building real human connections is the most impactful way to lay the groundwork for your recruiting process.

Next Steps

Coming Soon

We’re just getting started on our deep dive into the worker experience, so stay tuned for the next part of our series: How to Cultivate Intelligence Around Hiring, Maintaining, and Sustaining Employees. FindWRK is on the front lines, listening to the stories of workers and employers, tuning into your needs, and innovating the next-best in all things hourly employment. We’re here for you, so check back with us any time for resources, support, or to find your next role. We think it should be simple, so we’re on a mission to make it that way. 

References

Business Insider. Walmart Expands Fertility Options for U.S. Employees. Retrieved September 29, 2022 from https://apple.news/AKVRnj31GTeqWpNvpJ1OSsg

Entrepreneur. Employers Are Expanding benefits and Perks in Response to COVID and the “Great Resignation”-Here’s What to Look For Retrieved September 28, 2022 from  https://apple.news/AYrHZcPVXRFCCPkoe_fxYyg 

The Washington Post. Gen Z Workers Demand Felxibility, Don’t Want to Be Stuffed in a Cubicle. Retrieved September 28, 2022 from https://apple.news/A0O0SSjuqR4Cb_fnVDBTk9Q

(2021, October, 04). Survey on Covid-19 and Mental Health, February to May 2021. The Daily. Retrieved October 5, 2022 from https://www.150statcan.gc.ca/n1/daily-quotidien/210927/dq210927a-eng.htm