By Steve Tonks, Senior Vice President of EMEA at WorkForce Software
Ask a group of marathon runners to describe the mental stages they go through during a race, and they’ll often give you eerily similar answers. The first few miles pass in a blur of nerves and excitement, before you find your stride around a third of the way through. But push on for another third, and you suddenly ‘hit the wall’. Physical and mental exhaustion, coupled with disbelief at the distance you’ve still got to run, leave you struggling for motivation to go on.
Is it just me, or do marathons sound exactly like the stages we all work through during the dark winter months? The promise of parties and a holiday spur us on throughout December, we peak with Christmas and New Year—and then January and February bring us crashing back to Earth with their miserable weather, pinched bank balances, and unfulfilled resolutions. Add nearly two years of COVID fatigue, plus a year of staffing shortages, and it’s no wonder that 45% of British workers say their mental health had worsened by the end of 2021.
Without urgent change, it’ll become tougher than ever for managers to maintain employee engagement, and support mental wellbeing—particularly for ‘deskless’ workers who’ve toiled through multiple lockdowns already. So, what can we do to protect employees from burnout this winter, and become more compassionate, agile, successful business leaders? Let’s take a look.
- Capture employees’ feelings, ideas, and improvements
When managers are looking at how to improve their business, they often think about the problems right in front of them. They aren’t necessarily relating to the challenges of the factory worker, the stockroom assistant, or the LGV driver. Simply, the gap between deskless workers and their white-collar colleagues usually stems from a lack of understanding of their day-to-day roles.
Before we begin to make changes to our workplace, we need to find out what our workers want. Along with regular one-to-ones with line managers, we can set up anonymous surveys, suggestion boxes or even chatbots, to which staff can submit their thoughts, and managers can use to assess levels of sentiment, wellbeing, and engagement. This helps to promote company transparency and allows executives to engage with workers on a personal level. Then, once you have a stronger idea of your workforce’s needs, you can start to make the changes that help your employees deliver their best every day.
- Provide new tools to make employees’ lives easier
Deskless workers make up 80% of the global workforce, yet receive less than 1% of a company’s average software spend. In fact, many don’t even have a company email address, leaving them facing slow, manual processes just to get their daily tasks done. Workplace technology doesn’t just boost efficiency and productivity—it plays a huge part in worker wellbeing, too.
Workforce management software makes it easy for staff to share ideas with colleagues, check future shifts, book holidays, access payslips, and much more. Meanwhile, using AI to automate menial work can free up workers to focus on tasks that afford greater freedom, creativity, and satisfaction. When the right technology is used to support employees and drive alignment within the business, employees enjoy the engagement they deserve—and the support to work more productively than ever.
- Offer staff more control over their working schedules
According to Britain’s Health and Safety Executive (HSE), workplace fatigue often results from ‘poorly designed shift-working arrangements and long hours’, which don’t allow enough time for rest and recovery. Employers may have previously been able to allocate heavy winter workloads that put the needs of their company first—but since the pandemic, the balance of power between managers and their employees has dramatically shifted.
New expectations for more fulfilling work, flexibility and healthier working practices have resulted in widespread resignations, a huge labour shortage, and a much stronger hand for workers to play. Now, business leaders must look at how they can create workplaces where people want to work, by giving staff more control over their work/life balance.
Quick changes include introducing online calendars, simpler shift swaps, and more lenient time-off requests. And to support those workers who are reluctant to speak up about their stress, we can even use smart fatigue management systems to remotely monitor hours worked, tasks performed, consecutive overtime, breaks taken, and time off. With intelligent software at business leaders’ fingertips, it becomes easier than ever to flag employees that may be at risk of becoming fatigued, and create a healthier, happier, more productive workplace.
- Engage workers at every moment throughout their career journey
Each day in the workplace is full of opportunities to captivate employees and help them feel fulfilled at work. But newer home-working practices can make genuine human interaction, the type that drives empathy and engagement, tough to achieve.
That’s why business leaders must give deskless workers the facilities to remotely access in-the-moment feedback, micro-training, wider social events, and more. Being tech-proactive allows us to reach out to employees, from wherever we are, to engage and offer them the human side of the company they might desperately need. This is how we build strong company culture, and create an engaged, upbeat, loyal workforce that attracts new talent, too.
It’s all about ‘making every moment matter’. So, when it comes to the three-month marathon of winter work, employees won’t need the promise of a medal to stay happy, healthy and productive—just the support and empathy of their managers and employer.