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Article | People & Risk Coach Reference

Beyond Wellbeing – the social challenges

How to stay connected

May 11, 2021

Employee wellbeing is essential for an engaged and productive workplace.
Ευεξία|Future of Work

During a pandemic, wellbeing takes on a new urgency. An employer's measures to promote employee wellbeing are thus critical to building and sustaining workforce resilience. As part of our Beyond Wellbeing campaign we are looking at the wider impact of employee wellbeing and have distinguished four pillars to support an integrated approach; emotional, physical, financial and social. In this virtual round table we discussed the challenges we face related to the social aspects of wellbeing.

Social wellbeing is all about being connected. By understanding how to interact with others, accepting diversity, and knowing how to support and collaborate with others to maintain happy, healthy and sociable employees. Social aspects also relate to being successful at resolving conflicts and adapting to change. We shared experiences and tips from leading Benelux HR professionals whilst two of our Talent and Rewards experts provided talking points for discussion.

social wellbeing is all about being connected

How to stay connected with your employees?

Most companies have undertaken regular surveys to measure the general mood of their employees during this pandemic. Initially the focus was on providing regular updates and adapting to change, but the most recent survey results highlight that the mood of people is changing. From being optimistic and upbeat, everyone is becoming a bit weary and tired of the continued lock-down measures like working from home continuously and not meeting colleagues.

This also means that HR professionals need to work very hard to stay connected with their employees. There are so many Teams/Zoom calls but they do not always give a clear picture of how people feel. Not everyone is comfortable opening up in this digital, less personal, environment. Equally, it is very tiring to be on ‘show’ all the time.

Digital communication requires etiquette & training

The never-ending video calls ask for a company digital etiquette. Some of the suggested rules to improve video meetings that were mentioned during this discussion were to:

  • Introduce shorter standard meeting times
  • Block time for lunch
  • Allow for an opt-in philosophy (if you join you participate)
  • Block time to think
  • Add elements of fun (e.g. goat in call, Ommetje app, stand-up comedy etc)
  • Agree on video on or off
  • Trust prioritization

Besides, leadership also needs more education and training on the differences in managing remotely. For example to learn to pick-up signals that highlight potential problems, to take the time to talk about other things besides work, ask what is needed to work effectively, and most importantly really listen. Managers should actively involve their employees in creating a safe environment where open communication is encouraged.

leadership need to listen to what employees really care about

Onboarding new hires

Another challenge for HR is to make new hires feel at home when they are not able to meet their colleagues nor come to the office. As a recent article in a leading newspaper suggested; most young people that have joined a company in the last 12 months, felt so demotivated and disconnected that they left again after 6 months.

When asking around, it appeared that most participants have already increased their onboarding time from 3 to 6 months. Some companies had even facilitated the opening of their offices especially for newcomers, or organized mystery coffees to connect with a colleague they might have otherwise met at the coffee machine. Special training programs have been launched to ensure the emotional and mental health of the newcomers was seen to.

Office as physical meeting place

A hot topic on the agendas of most HRM’s is what to do with the current available office space. It is clear that at some stage it will become possible again to go back to the office. However, the majority of people are happy to have the flexibility to work from home, but they would like to meet their colleagues and experience the company culture. This requires a different function of the office, it needs to become the place to connect instead of to work.

How to optimize recognition and rewards within the company?

How to celebrate successes digitally? Research shows that there is a bigger focus on the recognition piece than the traditional incentive plans. To recognize personal and company achievements without any of your colleagues around requires a culturally sensitive and creative approach. Recognition is a more immediate reward, and it doesn’t cost much money. To publicly recognize good performance aids social wellbeing tremendously.

Some of the suggestions of recognizing peers’ performance were to:

  • Receive a personal phone call or video from the CEO to say congratulations
  • Celebrate achievements throughout the year
  • Receive an official HR e-mail banner highlighting your achievement
  • Communicate achievements via LinkedIn and intranet
  • Check what is culturally valued and develop a dedicated recognition program
  • Receive a webshop voucher as a token gesture
  • Managers could receive engagement scores from their team

Generally recognition does not come from a one-off monetary bonus. A peer to peer award brings a lot more emotional value, and can be especially beneficial to put unsung heros in the spotlight.

During the European Talent and Reward conference 2021 a quick polling survey was held amongst the 800 participants about the most likely changes to the existing rewards structure due to the pandemic. Again this highlights that it is not necessarily about money, but a lot more on the softer elements such as wellbeing.

What changes in rewards do you expect in the near future?

Polling result for questions asked in 2021 European virtual Talent and Reward conference (N=800)
Changes in rewards Polling results
Personalized & Flexible 78%
Fair & Inclusive 70%
Centered around wellbeing 46%
Cost conscious 30%
All about skills 22%
Data & Technology 44%
Same as today 3%

Relocation affects rewards

Since the majority of office workers are able to work anywhere they like, a lot of people are reconsidering where they currently live. This applies even more so to a lot of (especially young) expats who moved back to their home countries at the beginning of the pandemic. For this reason it is essential to review the processes in place to support relocation and how this affects pay.

Especially the tax implications when you spend more than 30 days outside the country of your employment contract. Repairing these payroll issues can be very costly and should be communicated about as soon as possible.


Social wellbeing plays an even bigger part when being managed from a distance. Structures and guidelines should be in place to help leadership better manage in a virtual environment, and to ensure employees feel valued by their peers. This also applies to the overall benefit and reward structure.

a “one size fits all” approach to rewards is no longer feasible


Marco Linders
Client Management Consultant The Netherlands

Edwin Nys
Client Management Consultant Belgium

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