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Companies will be all too familiar with the Great Resignation, which seems to be continuing with a survey earlier this year suggesting that 44% of employees were still either actively or passively looking for new jobs. As far back as summer 2021, Gallup posed whether it should instead be called the ‘Great Discontent’, indicating that the root causes of employee disengagement might not so much be pay or job role issues as workplace ones.

Experts are now warning that we could be experiencing a ‘Disengagement Crisis’. ‘Disengagement’ is a term that describes when employees have no passion or enthusiasm for, and no emotional commitment to, their work or company. Findings of a survey of 2,000 white collar workers by recruitment firm Robert Walters found almost half of employees said their workplace had become unrecognisable in the past year.

Gallup’s State of the Global Workforce Report for 2022 suggests that just 9% of UK employees feel engaged by their work, representing one of the lowest rates of engagement in the European workforce (contrast this with a 33% engagement rate in North America). This culture would seem to be additionally manifesting itself in a phenomenon trending on TikTok and other social media called ‘Quiet Quitting’.

But this is not a ‘viral’ trend that will go away anytime soon: it affects an organisation’s bottom line. Perkbox estimate that disengaged employees cost the UK economy £340 billion every year in lost training and recruitment costs, sick days, productivity, creativity and innovation. Furthermore, they suggest that “82% of business managers think employees need to feel more engaged at work, but 59% of employees believe that their CEO focuses solely on finances rather than the team’s wellbeing.”

Root Causes of Employee Disengagement and Top 5 Solutions

They are quick, however, to debunk two myths: financial incentives (often posited as the root causes of employee disengagement) are enough to motivate teams, and if employees are happy, they’re engaged. Not so.

However, many companies do not know where to begin in encouraging staff towards these changes.

There are many ways that Thrive4Life can support organisations with this conundrum. For example, Thrive4Life offers talks that help to inform employees about the many health and wellbeing benefits, both mental and physical, of working from the office. Our recent engaging talk by Cheryl Isaacs, Chartered Occupational Psychologist and Executive Coach, focused on optimising flexible working aimed at staff, with the talk aimed at those who are currently working flexibly between the home and office environment.

Cheryl gave practical tips and advice on planning and perfecting your days to make flexible working more effective based on each individual’s personal needs. She emphasized the importance of real social interaction, as opposed to virtual connections and highlighted why this is so important for mental wellbeing.

Cheryl explored the psychological factors that reduce productivity and compared them across environments. The pillars of health and wellbeing were also discussed (sleep, exercise, nutrition, hydration, etc) and how important these are in supporting our overall health during a flexible working week.

The Cold, Hard Truth: Working From Home and those Rising Energy Bills

Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations suggest minimum temperatures of 16 degrees Celsius for relatively inactive, sedentary workers, leaving employers to determine what is reasonable for their own office workplace environments. With regards to working from home, people have to decide what is the right temperature for themselves.

A study by Cornell University found that workers were keyboarding 100% of the time at 25°C with an error rate of just 10%. When temperatures were reduced to 20°C the keyboarding rate was almost halved to 54% of the time and an error rate of 25%, which just shows the impact on performance that temperature has.

So, with people working from home having to find an extra £209 per month according to Uswitch to pay their energy bills, it’s likely they’ll be driven back to work just to keep warm! But the energy crisis shouldn’t be the only reason people are coming back, employers have to start thinking outside the box about how they can make their workplaces more attractive.

It suggested Five Things Companies Should Look at to Engage Employees:

  • Recognise and tap into the demands of your team
  • Integrate employee engagement into company culture
  • Reward achievements and provide feedback
  • Be transparent and lead by example
  • Don’t treat onboarding (the introduction and integration of new employees into the workforce) as a ‘necessary evil’.

A recent survey conducted by Robert Walters suggests a number of possible reasons for the uptick in disengagement. These include:

  • high staff turnovers,
  • a decrease in the number of people actually in the office, and
  • declines in team socials.

This greatly resonates with the feedback that Thrive4Life has been receiving from corporate clients. Many HR departments are reporting that staff are reluctant and apathetic to return to the office, with little appreciation of the benefits of this traditional environment.

The above findings suggest that the root causes of employee disengagement are issues primarily of the workplace, not of pay or role-dissatisfaction. Given the unease and apathy so many employees voice, it is unsurprising that Thrive4Life has found that many of its corporate clients are looking to highlight the benefits of working in the office environment and looking for innovative ways to encourage their staff back.

But What Will Engage Employees?

Some businesses are choosing to focus on how best to support staff during the cost of living crisis, as nearly a quarter of employees (24%) believe they should. John Lewis is offering free meals to its staff while West Bromwich Building Society is awarding its employees a one-off support payment of £1200 to meet spiralling costs. All admirable gestures but they don’t necessarily address the discontent/disengagement issue.

In tough times, companies are often tempted to cut employee benefits in an effort to stem spending. However, in a climate of challenging employee recruitment and retention, employers need to be doing more than ever to keep their workforce healthy, engaged and productive, and thus dig to find the root causes of employee disengagement in their environments.  

Walking the Walk – How to Overcome the Root Causes of Employee Disengagement

It was somewhat reassuring, therefore, to read that ‘healthcare’ is a benefit that’s unlikely to make the chopping board with 88% of employers saying health-related benefits are important. Companies with health and wellbeing programmes in place need to continue to develop them in conjunction with employees’ feedback and needs.

One of the initiatives we’ve been running for clients, which has helped encourage more people back into the office has been our Mini Health Check – Know your Numbers. It enables employees to check their key indicators of health; blood pressure, cholesterol levels, blood glucose and body mass index (BMI) to assess their current health and fitness levels and discover any potential risk areas in a fun and engaging way. We can conduct 25 assessments a day.

Thrive4Life has recently run a number of these ‘Mini Health Check – Know your Numbers’ sessions in client workplaces, which has encouraged staff to come in, rather than work from home and these events always receive great feedback.

Janice Kaye, Managing Director of Thrive4Life said: “It is a reason for employees to go into the office and gives them something valuable, relating to their health, that they can act upon. It’s also a great way to get engagement from staff and creates an interactive talking point for them”. Janice added “The company can use these events to promote health and wellbeing widely. An event such as ‘Know your Numbers’ also sends out a message that your organisation supports and cares for everyone’s health and wellbeing.”

This is just one example of a number of things Thrive4Life can offer clients through our customisable platform, the Health and Wellbeing Discovery Hub. It is an excellent source of materials to which we regularly add content and which removes the headache of health and wellbeing support and promotion from stretched internal resources.

It enables companies to ‘Walk the walk not just talk the talk’, providing access to not only informative articles and thought leadership but also to live talks by consultants and professionals on such topics as diabetes, weight management, heart disease and keeping joints and muscles active and mobile.

In the Great Perk Search of 2018, ‘Access to an onsite therapist or healthcare professional’ ranked number 40 of most popular benefits. One pandemic later and NHS waiting times the worst on record we believe that being able to connect with a specialist in person with their own individual questions would push this particular benefit up into the top 10! Thrive4Life offer talks from top consultants across all health interests including cancer awareness, diabetes, men’s and women’s health, heart health and musculoskeletal health, giving employees direct access to specialists in their field and giving them an opportunity to connect with their own key questions.

If you don’t want a ‘winter of discontent’ at your business contact us now to see how we could help.

Thrive4Life has over 30 years’ experience of delivering specialist health, safety and wellbeing guidance across many industries. For more information about its services and training courses get in touch or email or call us on 020 8972 9675.

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