This is according to the software and services provider’s fifth Annual Trends Survey for 2020–21, with over 1,000 senior business decision-makers having their say on the technology trends and their impact on UK organisations, now and in the future.
‘Our research shows a shift in leadership style emerging as a direct result of COVID-19 which, overall, has been positive for organisations and their workforces,’ comments Gordon Wilson, CEO at Advanced. ‘Leaders are now perceived as more human than ever before by employees. As role models, it’s critical for CEOs and managing directors to set the right tone and apply high levels of emotional intelligence within their workforce. What’s more, collaborative technology tools have enabled leaders to become more accessible and, as a result, staff have seen a more communicative and more empathetic approach which, as workers continue to work remotely and in isolation, is critical.’
The survey also shows 43% of respondents believe the most important attribute of a business leader today is to show strong leadership in a crisis, while 41% say it’s to have a clear vision and strategy amid economic uncertainty – both a reflection of COVID-19’s impact. Business leaders are now prioritising recovery to stay afloat and minimise redundancies, with the rest of the workforce looking up to leaders for direction and reassurance.
However, the focus on business survival could be to the detriment of employee well-being. Only 25% say the most important attribute for a business leader is to support the well-being of their people. It’s a sobering statistic given the pandemic’s effects on people’s mental health and the significant rise in levels of loneliness and isolation, stress, and depression.
The charity Mind has revealed the scale of the impact of the pandemic on people with mental health problems, while the World Health Organization (WHO) has urged that substantial investment is needed to avert a mental health crisis. Advanced’s report suggests that, while business leaders have done well to instil greater levels of confidence across the workforce during this turbulent time, they clearly must do more to prioritise the well-being of their workforce and demonstrate they have a duty of care to all staff.
Gordon adds: ‘It’s not surprising, given the scale of the pandemic, that many business leaders are now playing catch up in introducing well-being initiatives to support their employees who, quite simply, have seen their lives change dramatically. It’s therefore encouraging to see that 38% of business decision-makers will prioritise staff wellbeing over the next 12 months. While this figure is still low – arguably because organisations are focused on survival right now – leaders are now recognising the need to ensure employees have emotional support and a healthy work-life balance.
‘Leadership teams can better support their workforce’s well-being through a mental health and well-being programme, which is fundamental to any responsible employer. As a standard benefit of employment, organisations should provide advice and support around mental health as well as financial matters and personal matters. What’s more, organisations should have engagement champions to ensure people stay engaged. Technology can help here, as it can be used to establish effective communications, enable colleagues to easily keep in touch, and ensure there are processes in place to support well-being.’
Matthew Fell, CBI Chief UK Policy Director, says: ‘With trust in business now more crucial than ever, it’s great to see most employees saying they feel confident their company’s leadership can bounce back from a crisis. The spirit of support, empathy and collaboration which have emerged during this period are invaluable to firms and individuals alike.
‘The isolation, anxiety and financial hardship caused by Covid-19 have been a blow for so many. Employee wellbeing has long been a top priority for business, so workplace leaders will do everything they can to continue showing up for their staff. Providing mental health services and encouraging a healthy work-life balance are just a couple of ways every firm can step up to the plate.’