We're shifting to a new place in the COVID-19 crisis. As vaccination rates go up and organizations continue to observe mitigation and social distancing measures, the COVID-19 pandemic is beginning to become an endemic — or a manageable disease that is consistently present in a population, such as the rhinovirus (the common cold) or the influenza virus. How can public sector organizations support employee health and wellness through this transition?
The work that public sector employees do is meaningful but stressful. We put a lot of work on the shoulders of public sector employees but we expect them to serve constituents with grace and excitement. Both physical health and mental health in the workplace are in serious need of a check-up. Fortunately, there are small changes that organizations can make to improve the lives and well-being of their employees.
Many benefits came about as a result of COVID. Flexible workplaces, caregiver benefits, increased employee mental health benefits to address the pandemic's burnout and traumas, and holistic health benefits are just a few examples of the types of benefits created to address the unique challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. Trends show that these pandemic-era employee benefits are here to stay even as COVID-19 becomes an endemic.
According to The Hartford's 2021 Future of Benefits Study, there is a renewed focus among organizations on benefits that keep employees healthy and productive, such as expanded paid leave, "bedrock benefits" like life insurance and critical illness insurance and employee assistance programs for mental health. These benefits help to retain committed talent, which keeps organizations competitive in the long term.
So, how do you support your workers in the face of all this information? Here are four tips for fostering a supportive workplace during the shift from pandemic to endemic.
Vacations look a little different right now. Some of your employees might be scared to travel, while some of your team members seem to go on adventures often. You should not force your team members to travel, but you should ensure that they take all their given time off. Encourage employees to have a staycation. Getting away from the desk and resting is important, so encourage your team to do what they need to support their wellness.
One-on-one meetings can benefit you and your staff members, so make sure you set regular meetings. During those meetings, you can talk about work assignments, work/life balance and get to know your employees' visions for the future. As you are chatting during these meetings, you will get to know your staff and spot opportunities for them to take care of their mental and physical health. Being a great manager starts with meeting with your employees regularly.
When is the last time your office went through a remodel? It might be time to make a few adjustments to build wellness into your workplace. These changes don't have to be large or expensive. You could give the office a new relaxing coat of paint, play some soft, instrumental music in the background or provide the office with some stress-relieving toys for their desks. Small things like this can be free or relatively inexpensive, but making the office more relaxing for employees is priceless.
Last but not least, we encourage you to walk the talk. Employees model what those in leadership positions do. If employees see you neglecting your mental and physical wellness, they may decide that they need to do the same to succeed. When you take time off or talk about your feelings with employees, you allow them to be vulnerable too.
COVID-19 has a significant chance of becoming an endemic. Many speculate on whether the Delta variant will be the last COVID-19 surge that the United States sees, but there is still a lot that we need to figure in the meantime when it comes to supporting employees. Public sector employers are busy at work ensuring that employees are well taken care of in this period of transition so that employees are better able to care for the needs of their constituents.
CPS HR Consulting is a self-supporting public agency providing a full range of integrated HR solutions to government and nonprofit clients across the country. Our strategic approach to increasing the effectiveness of human resources results in improved organizational performance for our clients. We have a deep expertise and unmatched perspective in guiding our clients in the areas of organizational strategy, recruitment and selection, classification and compensation, and training and development.