In the current context, how do workplace happiness and QWL position themselves? Behind the end of the crisis and the return to the office lies a real underlying issue related to the well-being of employees, whether they work in the office, at home or in a third location. Marie-Hélène BAREYT, founder of OPUS&VERSO and consultant specialising in the implementation of QWL strategies, sheds light on the issues and priority actions to be taken in the coming months.
Do you think QWL is always an issue in times of crisis?
MHB: I think the subject is more topical than ever. Today, companies are faced with the great challenge of reviving their business. We even hope to make up some of the ground lost in recent months. And this can only be done with committed teams who have the energy to win back business.
On the other hand, we have to admit that a new effort is still expected. After having been present from the start of the health crisis, employees are now feeling the full weight of what they have carried over the last few months. And the upheavals are more profound than a simple bout of fatigue: personal questioning, questions about the meaning of work or its role in society, persistent anxiety, loss of bearings… Energy is not at its highest level and the bond of trust with the company may be weakening even though we are only at the beginning of the economic battle. The summer holidays will not be enough. Developing a QWL policy is becoming an imperative if we are not to stall en route.
What are, in your opinion, the QVT actions that will recreate a good dynamic?
MHB: In the short term, we must first and foremost take care of people’s health, and I am in favour of a very practical approach. For example, one subject that comes up a lot is teleworking. Many companies were not structured to industrialize it on this scale. Today, however, it is clear that it is becoming established on a long-term basis. The subject is very vast and affects many areas such as management, tools, workspace, sense of belonging, etc…
But let’s just look at the organization of the place where the employee works. He needs to be in control of what affects his physical and mental health. At home, we often underestimate the importance of the quality of the seating, the need for light, the temperature, the storage and of course the absence of all those little trips we make many times a day at the office.
A QWL action for the company means setting up information or training sessions, practical support for the employee, ergonomic monitoring or a teleworker’s kit. All sources of disengagement or inefficiency must be removed. However, let’s not forget one thing: when you pull a thread, often the whole sweater comes with it. In other words, it will probably be necessary to ask the same questions about the company’s premises so as not to create inequalities between the two work contexts.
But it’s not just about working remotely? What other priority areas have you identified?
MHB: No, of course not. If we always stay in the field of health, we must also ask ourselves questions about food. Is the quality and availability of the catering, available or nearby, adapted to the pace of work, to a balanced diet, to pleasure and conviviality? Everyone knows the appointment that overflows and condemns you to the last sandwich in the bakery or the packet of crisps from the vending machine.
But there are also configurations where dietary imbalances are linked to overwork, stress or emotional violence. For example, a health care institution under particular stress has found that in recent years, staff members in one of its departments have gained an average of almost 10kg. This raises the question of how to feed oneself, but also how to provide support in managing emotions.
If we change areas, we can also talk about the prevention of MSDs (musculoskeletal disorders), sport, work-life balance, the design of work spaces, management and leadership, the dissemination of information, monitoring the state of mind of employees, and many other subjects.
The project seems huge. How can companies get started?
MHB: If you want to do everything, yes, but it doesn’t make sense. An effective QWL policy is first and foremost an arbitration policy. What is needed is to prioritize because the company cannot handle so many changes at once, whether from an operational or financial point of view. For their part, employees will be lost in front of a mass of advantages that they will not be able to exploit at their true value. The investment would be completely lost.
It is necessary to focus on 2-3 major points according to their degree of criticality, their impact on the activity but also according to the staff structure, the company’s business, its internal culture or its current events. Recently, it is also necessary to integrate the new relationships with health, its place in the company and the environment.
The link between performance and QWL is well known, so today it seems imprudent to think one without the other. The hyper-urgency of turnover should not make us forget what is important. And a well-thought-out QWL policy is an integral part of this.