The coronavirus pandemic has catapulted us all into an extraordinary situation and places high demands on leaders in business. Fear and uncertainty are omni present as we have to stay home to stay safe, with crippling effects on the economy. The absence of physical interaction and in-person connection between people combined with stress and anxiety easily leads to feelings of isolation and loneliness, even burnout.
Work-Life Balance, Gone
The line between personal and work life has always been blurred in the technology era and now with COVID-19 there is no line at all, work life and personal life are fully integrated like never before. It is important now more than ever to place employee well-being as an integral part of a company’s overall business strategy. Well-being plays a huge role in staying healthy and mentally sane, not only to strengthen the immune system but also to build resilience to bounce back easier from a crisis. People’s learning curve over the past few weeks has skyrocketed as they adapt to remote working using new digital collaboration tools like Microsoft Team, Slack, Zoom etc. (welcome digital transformation!) yet still, as Michael Townsend Williams, an international coach, author, speaker and entrepreneur points out correctly: “A company has someone to look after money, strategy, and marketing and soon there will be another title: A Chief Wellbeing Officer to look after humans. To create a culture that stops burnout, to create a culture of learning, to create a culture of thinking long-term. To put people before anything else.”
A recent McKinsey report about Leadership in a crisis and how to respond to the coronavirus outbreak and its future challenges supports the theory: “Investing time in well-being will enable leaders to sustain their effectiveness over the weeks and months that a crisis can entail.”
Wellbeing Program vs Wellness Program
I am not talking about company wellness programs to increase physical health that many companies have, I am talking about investing in initiatives that promote the physical, psychological, emotional, intellectual and social wellbeing that includes training on high performance habits that produce tangible returns. The Chief Wellbeing Officer is different from an HR role because it is not just looking at human resources, but also about company culture and infrastructure. The CWO is part of the executive team responsible for coaching and training top executives, managers and employees and must have the authority and resources to create such wellbeing programs, which are equally as important as any other business program because it is proven that they lead to increased job performance, employee retention and profitability.
Pioneers such as Google, Zappos, AirbnB, Salesforce or Deloitte have created positions specifically dedicated to maintaining and improving employee’s wellbeing and high performance because savvy companies know that workers who are well in all aspects of their lives such as career, relationships/community, financial, physical/energy are healthier, more engaged, more fulfilled and more productive, which leads to more loyal and satisfied customers and to a better business result. Isn’t that worth striving for, especially right now?