Well-being in times of Covid-19

How do we redesign a workplace focused on the three dimensions of well-being?

Are you asking yourself ‘How do we go back to normal?” or are you wondering ‘What new ‘normal’, better ‘normal’ can we create from here on?”

There is a major difference between those two questions. Thinking about the current situation as a deviation from the status quo and striving to establish the status-quo back is worlds apart from considering the silver lining and the opportunity in this situation to create a better reality and a better future. As I mentioned to Dr Steven MacGregor, Global expert in workplace health, well-being and performance, during our conversation on his podcast The Well-being Officer, I am very much in favour of the second perspective.

How do we create workplaces in times of Covid-19 that ensure the three-dimensional well-being of our workforce?

There are three timelines to consider: before COVID-19, during COVID-19 and after COVID-19. And besides the obvious question of health, i.e. physical health, we also need to consider mental health. Well-being has three dimensions: physical well-being, mental well-being and social well-being. And since prevention is better than cure, we should really start asking a more holistic question: How do we create workplaces in times of Covid-19 that ensure the three-dimensional well-being of our workforce?

People’s emotional and social well-being is extremely important. In fact, there is plenty of research that proves that mental, emotional and social well-being boost people’s physical health and even leads to success1. And it goes without saying that the health and success of your employees, is crucial for the success of your entire organisation and everyone in it.

Since Covid-19 has forced all of us to stop and redesign our lives and everyday interactions, Workplace Professionals too, find themselves at a crossroads: what is the workplace of today and tomorrow? what does it look like? how does it function? what is it supposed to be real?

Well-being starts with a conversation

Successfully answering these questions, in a way that ensures the well-being of your workforce, can only mean one thing: engaging your employees in the process. Not only is the result of these questions (i.e. the new workplace) responsible to ensure people’s physical, emotional and social well-being, the process of exploring these questions needs to do so as well. The well-being of your workforce starts by being involved and consulted in the process of creating their new workplace and their new ways of working. Their well-being really starts with a conversation with them. As Dr MacGregor stated in our podcast conversation, a lot of the value that workplace professionals can get from any creative or design-led process comes from involving the users in inventorying their needs and generating ideas that aim to satisfy their needs. So, we are talking here about nothing less than empowerment.

The trilogy of (work)-places

Of course, there is also a pragmatic side to this process of engagement. As I explain in previous articles here and here, ‘The workplace’ is not restricted to the office anymore. The workplace is now a combination of the office, people’s homes and potentially third places as well. So, if a Workplace Professional is to optimise the workplace, he/she is to look at the trilogy of places: the office, the home and the 3rd place. And how is a Workplace Professional meant to help people with their homes without the input of those very people? No one knows the home situation of every person better than the person themselves and trying to optimise working from home without people’s inputs is futile.

What is the workplace of today and tomorrow? What does it look like? How does it function? What is it supposed to be real?

Working from home isn’t one size fits all

Keep in mind though, that the ‘future of work’ is imminent and may not be as long term as you would imagine or hope. As the Covid-19 situation develops, as people’s situations change, the ‘best bits’ will change as well. The focus is not on the answer (of how we need to work today, tomorrow, next week) but rather on the question; how do we figure out what is the best way to work with our physical as well as mental, emotional and social well-being in mind?

An HR manager, a Facility Manager, or any role you may hold as a Workplace Professional, your responsibility is not to find the answers, but rather to facilitate the process for people to find their answers, today and again tomorrow and again next week. Your most powerful tool is the engagement process you can put in place for your teams, a process that can ensure you ask the right questions, together, every time.

The true power of a participatory process – the way we do it at AKKA and advise our clients to do it – comes when it is done iteratively. The process needs to be designed as an iterative process from the get-go, one that is designed to be repeated and adapted, for a continuous learning by doing journey. This is extremely important in relation to Covid-19 and how we are responding to the pandemic now.

While we might be calling our present time ‘post-pandemic’, we do need to be careful. There are many sources that point to the possibility of a second and third waves. Our current post-pandemic period could quickly become a pre-pandemic period, to another wave of infections. This means that even when we successfully engage our workforce to create the ideal workplace in times of Covid-19, the definition of that ideal will need to change as circumstances change. As the situation evolves, Workplace professionals and all employees, have to be ready to quickly convene and design the next generation of the Covid-19 workplace.

Are you interested in redesigning your new workplace in order to enhance your employee’s well-being? Are you looking for practical ways to engage them in the process? Not sure where to start? Over the years, we have developed a 4 phased process to engage just about any group of people, around just about any set of questions. Download here our proprietary step by step process to engage your people in redesigning the workplace of tomorrow.

Your guide to aligning and engaging your entire workforce around any transformation.

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