Do you invest in an employee’s life and not just their job?

March 17, 2021
Do you invest in an employee’s life and not just their job?

It’s a no brainer that HR should support an employee’s career with the company. But these days, HR professionals and influencers are recommending a more holistic approach – of supporting the wider elements of an employee’s life, and not just the bits that relate to their work.

HR evolves – nothing new here

HR trends change. They have shifted, morphed, and circled back on themselves, ever since the day HR was invented. Which seems to be some point during the 18th century.

And as each generation of HR professionals reads the signs of the times and tries to work out how best to make the most of their workforce, they come up with different answers and approaches.

For example, the last decade or so saw a massive increase in focus on people analytics and “big data”. But since the pandemic struck, many of these professionals have begun to change their tune – and many of them are shunning pure numbers as a little “cold”, turning instead to a more holistic look at an employee’s life.

This is more than just looking at the work-life balance

Now, when I say that employers are starting to take a more holistic look at an employee’s life, I don’t mean that they’ve suddenly realised that they need to address work-life balance and employee wellbeing – these elements have been recognised ever since Robert Owen and Charles Babbage first coined the term “Human Resources”.

And HR trends have continued to circle back to this idea of employee wellbeing, ever since the 18th century. In fact, if you’ve been following this blog, you’ll know that we’ve talked for the last 8 years about the importance of work-life balance and employee wellbeing.

It was a little more than two years ago when Cary Cooper suggested we should support a better work-life balance by encouraging employees to switch off emails outside of working hours. And it’s nearly four years since I first penned the piece “are you missing the point of health and wellbeing at work?”.

Wellbeing and work-life balance are not new concepts for HR. But that’s not quite what I’m talking about today.

What’s beyond the work-life balance?

The coronavirus pandemic turned the tables a little bit. It threw our working and personal lives together with such force, that many people now believe home working is here to stay. And in many ways, I’m inclined to agree.

And what this seems to have done, is forced employers to think about work-life balance in a way that extends far beyond questions such as:

  • Am I letting employees finish shifts and go home on time?
  • Am I giving employees enough breaks?
  • Am I being lenient with personal mobile phone usage in the workplace?
  • Am I paying employees enough to cover their bills and personal expenses?
  • Am I expecting employees to answer their phone out of hours?

Of course, these questions aren’t an extensive list of work-life balance questions. They’re just examples of some of the more restricting ways we might have thought about our role as employers, in an employee’s work-life balance.

Improving the employee’s full-life experience

The point I’m trying to make is that for a long time now, the focus on work-life balance and wellbeing has often centred around the workplace. But the shift I’m beginning to see, is one where employers are now seriously considering the personal lives of their employees, too.

Brian Kropp, writing for Personnel Today, says: “On the back of this pandemic, businesses will recognise not only the impact of an employee’s personal life on their performance, but also their ability as a company to support them.”

And Kropp adds that employers are using a number of strategies to take advantage of this. For example, supporting the whole family.

Employers are supporting more than just the individual

“One company recognised the pressures on employees who had spouses who had lost their jobs or had children who couldn’t go to school” writes Kropp. “To help, they made their learning and development platforms open and available to them in the hope of giving the whole household the resources they need to progress during the tough period.”

Kropp also says that another organisation reflected on the pressure that the pandemic was having on relationships, with several employees going through separations.

“They went to the lengths of rolling out marital therapy for their employees” Kropp explains, “recognising that the status of their personal relationships had a significant impact on wellbeing.”

With one in three UK employees reportedly depressed, angry and stressed because of the pandemic, businesses need now, more than ever, to recognise the importance of the employee’s full life experience – and for many, family is a hugely important part of this.

Laptops for kids?

My point here is that you should be understanding what each employee needs in their life overall, and not just what they need during their working hours, or in their working environments. And I’d like to close off these thoughts, by recalling a recent story.

You’ll probably know already that one of the major concerns during the recent UK lockdown, was the number of children who didn’t have an appropriate device to work from while doing their schoolwork from home. And in January 2021, the Guardian estimated that around 9% of school pupils didn’t have a laptop available to them.

The Access Group responded to this problem immediately and offered every single employee spare laptops for their kids to borrow – free of charge, of course – which they shipped out by courier next working day. This helped my own child stay on top of his schoolwork, which in turn helped me feel better about my situation overall. And I know that it helped many others, too.

This, to me, was a great example of how an employer can take a relatively small action, to enormously help an employee’s life. And I hope that as employers, we continue this trend long after the pandemic is over!

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