Managers overestimate how well they support employees

A new report highlights the gap between leaders who feel they are supporting their employees well through the pandemic and workers who actually feel so.

According to a February survey of 2,100 people by Deloitte and Workplace Intelligence, more than 8 in 10 global executives believe their employees feel “excellent” or “good” when it comes to their physical, mental, social and financial well-being. However, employees rate their performance in each category much lower. In a major misalignment, although 81% of C-suite executives think their employees are doing well with their finances, only 40% of employees actually think so.

About 9 in 10 leaders feel they understand what their employees are going through during the pandemic and that they made the best leadership decisions for the company. On the other hand, about half of workers agree.

The split shows that “we need to see the C-suite and the workforce coming together” to understand the root causes of employee stress and turnover, says Jen Fisher, Deloitte’s chief wellbeing officer.

One contributing factor to the gap may be that “many C-suite executives haven’t had to deal with wellness and well-being programs that have traditionally been the responsibility of human resources,” says Fisher. “Now they’re being told it’s the responsibility of every C-suite leader.”

Managers and their employees agree that their current job is not good for their personal life and they might quit for a better one. About 69% of C-suite executives and 57% of employees “are seriously considering quitting for a job that better supports their well-being.”

Leaders admit they haven’t taken enough action to promote employee well-being

Almost all C-suite leaders said they feel responsible for the well-being of their teams, but 68% admit they are not taking enough steps to protect the health of employees and stakeholders. Only 1 in 3 employees feel that their job has a positive impact on their physical, mental and social well-being.

Without listening to employees, companies invest in resources that don’t adequately meet their needs, says Fisher. For example, the pandemic prompted many companies to provide new and improved healthcare services such as teletherapy and wellness grants.

However, employees say the biggest barrier to improving their health is the job itself, particularly coping with stressful workloads and long hours.

Here are the biggest ways leaders can improve wellbeing in the workplace, according to employees:

  • Adopting new standards that support social determinants of health (such as setting a minimum salary)
  • Focus on the holistic health of employees (e.g. flexible working time arrangements or support with childcare)
  • Challenge what is considered “normal” (e.g. introducing a 4-day work week or introducing days without Zoom meetings).
  • Share public health information with staff (e.g. holding town halls about Covid safety)
  • Shape the future of health in coalition with others (e.g. by publicly posting and measuring metrics on organizational well-being)

Will employee health take a backseat in a cooling job market?

Leaders with the power to effect institutional change are better able to query what employees really need to feel supported, says Fisher. Workers, meanwhile, should understand that big changes don’t happen overnight. “We are all responsible for the cultures we create,” she says.

It’s possible that workers’ confidence in firing will cool with a possible recession, but the health burden of their jobs won’t go away. If anything, Fisher hopes the ongoing instability will bolster the company’s investments in employee health and resilience.

We continue to live in a fractured and insecure world, which to me is another signal that wellbeing isn’t a nice-to-have, it’s a must-have from the C-suite onwards,” says Fisher.

“I hope that doesn’t happen if there is an economic downturn, it doesn’t reduce the company’s focus or investment in employee well-being,” she says. “That would be the absolutely wrong answer.”

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