No Going Back: How Workplace Wellness Must Change Post-Pandemic

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August 27, 2021
Health and Wellness

The Everything Life Coaching Podcast, featuring JRNI Coaching founders John Kim and Noelle Cordeaux, is a deep dive into the experience and business of being a life coach. In this episode, we’re talking about how employee needs and workplace wellness are changing in the wake of the pandemic, and how the coaching industry can respond. Subscribe to get new episodes weekly!

As life coaches, it’s critical that we have a finger on the pulse of the cultural moment. Trends and attitudes are shifting rapidly in these times, with a growing sense of rejection around things "going back to normal" in the wake of the pandemic.

The past few years have changed many things for us as individuals and as a society.  As coaches we need to stay on top of what is happening in the collective so that we can streamline our content and services to meet the needs of real consumers during this unprecedented time.

In this blog and accompanying podcast, we’re taking a closer look at one area in particular where change is underway in remarkable ways: the workplace. Or to put it more explicitly, how people feel about returning to work in a world that has changed.

What Coaches Need to Know

Anxiety around returning to the workplace is real.

A recent report from the American Psychological Association states that nearly 50% of Americans feel anxious about resuming in-person interactions — vaccine or no vaccine. And survey results from Zoom and Survey Monkey found that 65% of folks who worked from home during the pandemic prefer a hybrid model vs. a full return to the office.

What is driving anxiety about returning to the office?

  1. Concern about exposure to COVID-19, which may ease as vaccination rates improve
  2. Loss of freedom, which will be a lot harder for employers to address

Concerns over freedom include sacrificing flexible schedules, as well as anticipated stress of going back to a commute. Experts have been stating for years: happiness and motivation at work usually comes down to autonomy. During the pandemic, many people got a taste of what greater personal freedom at work feels like, and there’s an understandable reluctance to return to business as usual.

The way work is structured didn’t actually work for a lot of us. Now that we have the irrefutable proof that we can be just as effective at delivering results while working from home it’s going to be difficult - and may not feel reasonable - to give that up.

Other things that are unsettling employees include:

  • Employer condescension. A powerful example of this can be found in the detailed complaint letter Apple employees sent to management, explaining why unilaterally dictating a return to work on prescribed days was insulting.
  • Uneven playing field. Women with children are worried that working mothers will miss out on promotions and higher wages due to new hybrid office structures.
  • Bias. According to Anti Racism Daily, “employees are experiencing anxiety about returning to the office, and experiencing microaggressions or criticism for their social justice perspectives.” 

These are the kinds of issues that we as coaches need to be prepared to address head on in order to soothe and support a global population in crisis.

Coaching for workforce wellness is uniquely positioned to deliver customized wellness support to employees at scale. Implementing a coaching culture in the modern workplace promotes high trust and high-engagement by empowering self-managing teams.

A New Definition of Workplace Wellness

There is no “return to normal.” Looking ahead, the way we work is likely to undergo a more sweeping and permanent change. 

A one-size-fits-all approach to employee wellbeing won't work in the future because every individual is different. 

Workplace wellness is moving away from hierarchical systems that offer support for only the highest-earning industries or most senior colleagues within an organization. There is a rise in demand for personalized wellbeing support and education.

This has come into stark focus during the pandemic. A recent McKinsey survey showed that 79% of respondents listed wellness as an issue of importance, with 42% considering it a top priority. The report further supports the idea that employees and consumers alike are concerned now more than ever about wellbeing, and expect customized interventions.

Workplace wellness is no longer optional. According to Welltodo

“The pandemic stripped everything back. Workplace wellness went from a ‘nice-to-have’ to a vital element of pastoral care for a business to look after its employees at a time of crisis.” - Arti Kashyap-Aynsley, Ocado Group Global Head of Health & Wellbeing

The question now is: who’s driving that bus?

The trick over the months and years ahead will be in figuring out where "workplace wellness" fits within a company's structure, and who delivers it. Arti Kashyap-Aynsley asks: “Is it in the boardroom, with the executive directors, operations, corporate social responsibility or HR? Wherever it fits, it’s no longer just an HR issue. It’s a business issue.”

How Coaches Can Contribute

This is a watershed moment, one where coaching services are poised to directly address vital business and industry needs. Implementing a coaching culture top-to-bottom helps all employees hold responsibility for, and contribute to, a shared environment that celebrates and offers support from a whole-person perspective.

To help a workforce reeling from the pandemic regain wellbeing, personalization will be key.

That’s where we as coaches come in! We bring the skills and training to help individuals recognize and understand their own unique blueprint, and develop a targeted resilience plan based on individual circumstances and needs.

Want to Become a Coach?

One of our values at JRNI is that we dare to be different. Our coaches ignore the expectations society tries to impose on them, and seek to live from their own truth instead. If you are ready to step into your power as a coach, come check out JRNI Life Coach Training. Grounded in science, our ICF accredited program features authentic instructors, a robust curriculum, and business instruction to prepare you for liftoff.

JRNI Coaching: Vibrant community. Evidence-based life coach training. Lifetime support.

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