The last two years have seen a blurring of boundaries between home life and the workplace, the personal and professional and time logged on or logged off.
Understandably, as borders between these traditionally separate areas of our lives have collapsed, difficulties have set in.
All of this has had an impact on the perspectives of employees worldwide. Take a scroll down LinkedIn’s homepage and you’re likely to find several posts bucking the ‘always on’, ‘work hard play hard’ trend that has dominated modern working life for the last few decades. Employees are no longer willing to risk their personal wellbeing for their jobs, and are instead spending time, effort and money on strengthening their own emotional resilience.
“People have lost family members, have had to change careers, have had major shifts in their personal, family and financial lives. The workforce is returning a little shell shocked, and mindfulness will be integral to how we help our people re-engage in meaningful ways.” — Anthony Porter
Companies have responded to this in varying ways. In much the same way that gym memberships have become the most in-demand employee benefit, mindfulness and associated mental health practices has moved into the mainstream HR strategy at corporate organizations.
A report by the US-based National Business Group on Health and Fidelity Investments found that 52% of companies offered mindfulness training back in 2018, an increase from 36% in 2017. Among the many suggested advantages of offering mindfulness training to employees are increased productivity and heightened collaboration.
In the Nearshore, this upward trend in companies offering mindfulness training is growing too. As some Nearshore workers enter their third year of working from home and the sense of isolation that can bring, others are returning to a very different office to the one they left all that time ago. Burnout is more common, and mindfulness now is not the same as it was then.
“Mindfulness is not something new. It’s a concept that HR partners have been leading, with the intention of driving more engagement and a better employee experience, to be able to connect with employees and people,” said Anthony Porter, former Vice President of Global Technology and Vendor Management Operations at MetLife, and now an executive at a leading global financial services firm.
“This is all good in practice but when we entered into lockdown due to Covid-19, we had to completely reimagine how to thrive and help each individual in the enterprise to thrive. How do we connect and relate to one another? And how do we give each individual the time and space to disconnect for their sake? We’re returning to work but this is a very different scenario to the one we left. People have lost family members, have had to change careers, have had major shifts in their personal, family and financial lives. The workforce is returning a little shell shocked, and mindfulness will be integral to how we help our people re-engage in meaningful ways,” Porter added.
Across the industry, Nearshore organizations are streamlining efforts to expand the mental health and wellness resources they offer.
Mindfulness for Retention and Attraction
As interest in mindfulness and other mental health practices has grown, the offering of these benefits is now being seen as a tool to retain top Nearshore talent.
Perficient, a global digital consultancy, offers its employees a catalog wellness options intended to support their personal, as well as professional, growth. The courses are also offered to employees’ families.
“At Perficient we have a Global initiative called LiveWell@Perficient, which is our well-being program designed to support colleagues and families to live happier, healthier lifestyles through education, inspiration, and guided group experiences,” Felipe Garzon, Talent Development Manager at Perficient Latin America explained.
“Every week we hold guided master classes on yoga, stretching, self-care, meditation, and many other subjects. In addition to that we have access to a platform full of resources like podcasts, guided meditations, and videos, activities and articles to achieve a good work-life balance,” he added.
When it comes to engaging and retaining talent, the effort a company makes to cultivate mental health practices matters. A PWC report on millennials in the workforce noted that corporate values, including its environmental and social stance, “appear to become more important as other more basic needs, such as adequate pay and working conditions, are satisfied.”
In a similar manner, organizations without wellness benefits risk being viewed as cold or uncaring, and are less likely to engage and retain employees, let alone enjoy the advantages of a more resilient workforce.[newsletter-singup]
“We see the change in our lives reflected in the talk of ‘The Great Resignation’. There’s an additional layer of complexity for companies in that they need to look out more than ever for their employees. Enterprises need to figure out how they navigate through 2022 and into the next few years while understanding and having empathy for what employees have been through,” said Porter.
“There’s going to be a balance point whereby those companies that do right by their employees will continue to grow and thrive while those not paying attention to key indicators of employee well-being will continue to lose employees through attrition.”
Alternative Mental Health Efforts
In some Nearshore sectors, mental health programs are an essential part of the package that companies offer their employees.
At ModSquad, a flexible workforce provider focused on moderation, community support, community management and social media management, the work that some agents perform means they must be frequently observed to ensure they’re coping.
“Our people operations team works with our services team to ensure that everyone in the Mod network receives mental health support,” explained Mike Pinkerton, Chief Operating Officer and General Counsel at the company.
“We keep a very close eye on our moderation projects, with particular attention given to those employees working on extreme content. We offer programs for group and individual counseling for all agents,” he added.
Other companies forgo extra efforts on mindfulness practices and instead attempt to minimize intrusion into employee’s working lives. King White, CEO of Site Selection Group, a real estate and location advisory firm, believes that the constant monitoring that many employees now face is key to the rising levels of stress seen in the global workforce.
“The thing we don’t do as a company is tracking hours that employees are logged into their computers,” King explained.
“As a business services platform we’re able to focus on projects rather than tasks, which gives employees a target to focus on. I think that task-driven enterprises, like call centers, where employees are measured minute-by-minute on their performance, can be extremely demanding,” he added.
Other companies try to keep up communication and community for employees who spend their working days at home.
Outsourcing Services International, (OSI) a BPO that works out of El Salvador, reminds employees of the need to switch off their monitors and keep connected to their families and local communities.
“There is no one size fits all when it comes to mental and emotional balance,” said Joel Ciniero, Executive Director at Outsourcing Services International (OSI), a BPO that works out of El Salvador.
“It is fair to say however that each of us has felt the mental and emotional stress that has been and is still part of the worldwide pandemic. We therefore know that each of our team members has in their own way had to balance their personal, family and business lives under the halo of Covid-19 fears,” he added.