Five things to do to futureproof your business

By Samantha O’Donovan, Chief People Officer at AXA – Global Healthcare


The world of business is moving at pace. In fact, one of my colleagues recently said that the pace of change we see today is likely the slowest it’ll ever be again. For leaders, this means the time to futureproof is now. 


Part of this futureproofing needs to be fostering a more inclusive workplace culture. Our society is, on the whole, becoming more accepting, and it’s vital to keep up with this change in the workplace in order to attract new members and retain existing staff by showing them that you truly value them.  


To help them prepare for a more inclusive future, research by AXA has highlighted five ways in which employers can make their workplaces more accepting to all. 


1.       Foster a safe and welcoming environment 


It’s your organisation’s responsibility to give employees a sense of belonging at work, which will in turn help them to thrive. Fostering an environment where staff feel respected, connected to their colleagues and valued for who they are means they’re more likely to flourish and less likely to leave. 


Our survey found that almost 9 in 10 (87%) employees with a sense of belonging say that they can be relied upon to do their best at work, compared to 61% without that sense. Those without that sense of belonging are twice as likely to intend to leave their job in the next 12 months, than those with a sense of belonging.  


To foster a safe and welcoming environment, you’re preventing bullying and harassment by tackling discriminatory behaviour and creating a safe space for those who feel less able to speak up.  


2.       Address gender disparity 


The age-old battle that we’re all too familiar with is the lack of equality for women in the workplace, and it’s not only frustrating, but is having a negative impact on the mental health of women too.  


Overall, nearly two in five (37%) women who have never been questioned because of their gender are at the pinnacle of good mind health, compared to just one in ten (11%) women who are often or sometimes questioned because of their gender. Perhaps surprisingly, women being questioned due to their gender is more likely in western European countries. 


While women are fighting for equality and equity, their mental health is typically poorer. So, making it easier for women to achieve peak mind health by creating financial security, giving equal opportunities and encouraging an equity-driven mindset across the workforce is a crucial part of futureproofing your business. 


3.       Eliminate mental health stigma 


Mental health stigma is closely related to job retention. In fact, almost three quarters (71%) of respondents in our research agreed that having poor mental health makes it harder to stay in a job or find a new one. 


To ensure you’re retaining valued staff, make sure you and your colleagues are well educated on mental health conditions, how they might manifest themselves in the workplace, and what you can do to help others. Widespread education among your workforce can help to create a safe environment by tackling prejudice.  


It’s also your responsibility to encourage your team to seek help and access mental health support where it’s needed. Provide them with a real helping hand – mental health isn’t a tick-box exercise. 


4.       Offer a hybrid working balance 


The pandemic accelerated home-based and hybrid working like we could never expect, giving many employees the opportunity to dramatically improve their work-life balance. Our research shows that less than one in five (17%) home based employees are stressed compared to over three in ten (31%) of those in an office full time. 


It’s not just about avoiding the commute and being able to do your washing whilst working from home, though. One significant benefit of hybrid working is giving employees more autonomy over their own workload. 


Those who said they had sufficient control over their workload were four times more likely to thrive than those who didn’t. So, allowing employees to work from home – at least some of the time – will go a long way to giving them a more personalised work environment where they can thrive.  


5.       Look after your managers 


Managerial positions are crucial to any organisation, so to futureproof your business it’s vital that you take care of the so-called ‘squeezed middle’. These are the staff members who are under pressure from above, but also need to support those working underneath them – they need to think about people management alongside their own workload, and they’re likely striving for growth at the same time. 


To keep up with their workloads, almost a third (31%) of managers say they experience ‘distressing’ work hours compared to less than a quarter (22%) of non-managers. To help them out, provide your middle management staff with the tools to support others, and they will have a positive effect on the workforce as a whole.   


Looking after your employees and fostering an environment where they feel comfortable is the key to improving mind health and retaining important team members. In the long run, happier employees will be more motivated to help your business thrive, too. 


To read the full ‘Creating a workplace that’s fit for the future’ report with more data and advice for employers, click here.