Post-Covid employees are evaluating work/life balance more than ever, with 65% rethinking their work life.

We live in a volatile, uncertain, complex world, filled with bewildering ambiguity and constant upgrades. Big Data algorithms and digital empires are part of our new reality. Covid has layered further complexity on top of this. Today we have higher anxiety levels and more people suffering from depression than ever. 

Employees need purpose at work

Nearly two-thirds of US-based employees said that COVID has caused them to reflect on their purpose in life. And nearly half said they were reconsidering the work they did because of the pandemic. Finding meaning has become the quest of our time. 

study by Gartner Consulting found that post-pandemic, 65% of employees re-evaluated the role work of in life. More than 50% had started to question the purpose of their day-to-day job. The cry for meaning is echoing through the organisation up to the executive suites.

The Great Resignation is a local trend. 

Old Mutual found evidence that global movements such as the Great Resignation are also taking shape in South Africa. Also known as the Big Quit and the Great Reshuffle, this is a trend in which unhappy employees are voluntarily resigning. But if you think this is a purely European or American trend, think again. Look around you and see how people are looking differently at work. People are evaluating the value of work-life balance like never before. 

A study by BCG revealed that 85% of companies undertook transformation in the past decade – but 75% failed because hidden fears, insecurities and attitudes of the people involved were not addressed. A happy staff requires clarity of purpose and understanding of why they do what they do. The purpose at work has become the new frontier for building an engaged workforce.

We have a new pandemic. 

If Covid has taught us anything, says a McKinsey report, it’s that employees are hungry for the human nature of work. Employees are mentally drained. They want interpersonal connections, a shared identity and a renewed sense of purpose. They want to feel valued and have meaningful interactions. Every executive knows that job performance is directly related to job satisfaction –  and knowing one’s purpose is the modern-day criterion for job satisfaction. 

Eighty-three per cent of employees ranked ‘meaning in day-to-day work’ as their most important value, reports PwC. “Employees see purpose as a way to bring meaning to their work and understand the contributions they are making to the company, as well as society,” said says Chief Purpose and Inclusion Officer, Shannon Schuyler. Notice that PwC regards purpose at work as important enough to have a designated Purpose Officer. 

Poor mental health is affecting the bottom line

Someone working with you has poor mental health. Research by SADAG found that one in four employees have been diagnosed with depression, taking more than 18 days off from work due to the condition. 

Dr Renata Schoeman, a psychiatrist and leadership lecturer at the University of Stellenbosch Business School (USB), says, ‘More than 40% of all work-related illness is due to stress, depression, burnout and anxiety disorders.’ 

Research by South Africa’s  HSRC on post-Covid mental health indicates that 33 percent% of employees are depressed, 45% afraid and 29% lonely. 

Dr Marion Borcherds executive manager for Health and Awareness at Transnet calls for greater attention to our nation’s psyche and workforce. 

In her address at the National Economic Development and Labour Council summit held in September this year, she stressed this point: ‘It is apparent that the country’s mental health burden has been amplified by the Covid-19 pandemic, and that workplaces could provide safe spaces to provide meaningful programmes and interventions.’ 

South Africa has the worst mental health in the world.

It gets worse. We may call ourselves the rainbow nation but the state of our nation’s mental health is not so rosy. Research in 2021 on the Mental state of the World, rated South Africa worst among 34 counties, ranking lower than war-torn Yemen, Iraq and the DRC. 

The South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG) paints a similarly gloomy picture, reporting that suicide rates in South Africa rank tenth worst in the world. There are 23 known cases of suicide in South Africa every day, and for every person who commits suicide, there are at least ten attempts. 

Where does this leave us? 

We live in a new reality. Having a strong purpose makes people feel motivated and energised. Purpose creates mental resilience to handle stress better. Research indicates that meaning at work is the bedrock for a fulfilled life. 

All the above research points in the same direction: Employees need to find meaning in their daily tasks to stay fully engaged. Having a clear purpose at work instils commitment. Do you want engaged staff? Then give them purpose. Or watch them resign.

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