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Taking care of employee health and wellbeing in times of change

Written by: Charlie Heidrick, PhD - Research Manager, BI WORLDWIDE
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Supporting employee health and wellbeing is challenging even in the best of times. Taking steps to prevent burnout now will help employees feel better physically, mentally and emotionally in the long run.

Most organisations are navigating a lot of disruption. Supporting employee health and wellbeing is challenging even in the best of times. In times of change and uncertainty, this initiative can be even more difficult. Many employees are experiencing additional anxiety, undergoing a substantial change in diet and exercise habits, and adapting to a new way to get work done.

Times of change can make it tough to support the health and wellbeing of your employees, but there are steps we can take as leaders.

Consider burnout. Many assume that burnout is caused by too many hours worked. Although this can be the case – and working constant 70-80 hour weeks would likely lead to burnout for most – other factors actually better predict whether or not an employee feels burned out.

What are these other factors? And what can we do about them?

The inability to find meaning in work better predicts burnout than the number of hours worked. In a healthy workplace culture, people feel like their job matters and they see how it connects to larger organisational goals. They also believe their company is socially responsible and value its mission.

Be transparent with your employees about your organisational mission and how it is still relevant and important, even in these changing times. This can be especially important for employees who are now working from home and may have lost some of the inspiration they used to receive from interacting with coworkers or by physically being in a workspace.

Employees who report being in a work culture that supports their health are at least twice as likely to feel:

  • their manager understands them
  • their ideas are taken seriously
  • confident the good work they do will be recognised
  • their job challenges them to push their limits

Encouraging leaders to manage their teams by listening, challenging (when appropriate), empowering and recognising hard work can be crucial in supporting and engaging employees during these times.

Empathy rules all, especially during times of change. Many of the steps outlined here come down to simply imagining our employees with the same human qualities we view in ourselves — as complex beings that need meaning, belonging and validation. We obviously cannot control all that is happening in their worlds, but perhaps we can move the needle in the right direction by simply trying.

By taking these steps, we can do our part to prevent burnout in our employees, resulting in them feeling better physically, mentally and emotionally.

Charlie Heidrick

Research Manager, Research and Strategy

Dr Charlie Heidrick is the Research Manager for the Research and Strategy team at BI WORLDWIDE. Charlie’s background includes the study of motivation, health, and performance. Central to his research is the thought that our behaviours are affected by many domains, such as personal, cultural, and social. Charlie used these principles to earn a PhD from Colorado State University in Applied Social and Health Psychology while studying the health behaviour of Northern Colorado adults. Charlie brings research expertise and a curiosity about human behaviour to the Research and Strategy team at BI WORLDWIDE.