88% of executives think they made great leadership decisions during Covid – only 53% of workers agree

A new report highlights the divide between executives who feel they are doing a good job of supporting their employees during the pandemic and workers who actually feel that way.

More than 8 in 10 global leaders think their employees feel “great” or “good” about their physical, mental, social and financial well-being, according to a February survey of 2,100 people by Deloitte and Workplace Intelligence. However, employees rate their performance in each category much lower. In a big misalignment, although 81% of C-suite leaders think their employees are doing well with their finances, only 40% of employees actually think that way.

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

The disconnect shows that “what we need to see is the C-suite and the workforce coming together” to understand the root causes of employee stress and turnover, says Jen Fisher, director of wellness from Deloitte.

A contributing factor to the discrepancy could be that “many C-suite leaders haven’t had to manage health and wellness programs, which have always been the responsibility of human resources,” said Fisher. “Now they’re being told that’s the responsibility of every C-suite leader.”

One thing leaders and their employees agree on is that their current job isn’t good for their personal lives, and they could just quit for a better one. Some 69% of C-suite leaders and 57% of employees are “seriously considering quitting for a job that better supports their well-being.”

Leaders admit to not doing enough to support employee wellbeing

Almost all C-suite leaders said they feel responsible for the well-being of their teams, but 68% admit they don’t take enough steps to protect the health of employees and stakeholders. Only 1 in 3 employees believe that their work 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, Fisher says. For example, the pandemic has prompted many companies to provide new and improved health benefits like teletherapy and wellness allowances.

But employees say the biggest obstacle to improving their health is the job itself, especially managing stressful workloads and long hours.

Here are the top ways leadership can improve workplace well-being, according to employees:

  • Adopt new standards that support the social determinants of health (such as setting a minimum wage)
  • Focus on overall employee health (such as offering flexible work arrangements or childcare support)
  • Challenge what is considered “normal” (like adopting a 4-day work week or creating Zoom meeting-free days)
  • Sharing public health information with employees (like holding Covid safety town halls)
  • Shape the future of health in collaboration with others (e.g. by publicly publishing and measuring measures of organizational well-being)

Will employee health take a back seat in a shrinking job market?

Executives with the power to create institutional change can do a better job of questioning what employees really need to feel supported, Fisher says. Workers, on the other hand, need to understand that big changes will not happen overnight. “We are all responsible for the cultures we create,” she says.

Workers’ confidence in quitting may cool with a potential recession, but the health toll on their jobs won’t go away. On the contrary, Fisher hopes the continued instability will bolster the company’s investments in employee health and resilience.

We continue to live in a troubled and uncertain world, which is another signal to me that well-being is not well-being, it’s a must-have from the C-suite onwards,” says Fisher.

“What I’m hoping won’t happen is that if there’s some kind of economic downturn, it doesn’t diminish the company’s focus or the investment in the well-being of the workforce- work,” she said. “That would be the absolute wrong answer.”


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