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Employee Engagement

As the UK faces ongoing periods of Covid-19 lockdowns and tiered restrictions, Aviva’s ‘Embracing the Age of Ambiguity’ report explores the impact that a growing sense of ambiguity is having on key areas of working life, from wellbeing and work-life balance to employee-employer relationships.

Conducted in collaboration with business wellbeing specialists, Robertson Cooper, the research reveals that personality plays a key role in determining our preferences, behaviours and outcomes – at home and work – and predicts a third of our wellbeing levels and a quarter of our life satisfaction scores.

Against a backdrop of widespread ambiguity in our lives currently, those who are coping better across mental wellbeing, lifestyle, health and work satisfaction tend be more naturally emotionally resilient, conscientious, and optimistic. Those with lower emotional resilience are the most vulnerable and need the most support during this time.

Personality differences, along with age demographics and personal situations in the workplace, create a strong argument against a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to supporting, managing and motivating employees in the ‘Age of Ambiguity’.  Instead, a personalised approach is required to suit the very different experiences that employees have at work. Aviva’s research shows only one in six employees (15%) agrees their employer is trying really hard to understand what motivates them and just a quarter agree their employer is genuinely concerned about their wellbeing (26%).

Introverts vs. extroverts

Despite the stereotype that introverts are happy to work alone, and extroverts value socialising, Aviva and Robertson Cooper’s analysis reveals that introverts are the most concerned that their workplace will not be enjoyable in the future (44% vs. 32% of extroverts). Introverts are also most concerned about the security of their job (32% vs. 25%), as well as their ability to juggle childcare and other family commitments (40% vs. 28%).

A third of introverts (36%) are also concerned about not having enough face-to-face contact with colleagues, despite the rise of video conferencing calls.

The need for personalised support is also driven by different age groups in the workplace and is revealed to be the most valuable for younger workers. Personality aside, this age group is the most likely to feel some degree of anxiety (53% reported feeling anxious vs. a national figure of 34%) and are the most likely to rank their mental health as poor (17% vs. 11% across all age groups).

This age group also misses social interaction with colleagues, with almost a quarter (24%) agreeing that working from home makes them feel less connected.

Debbie Bullock, Wellbeing Lead at Aviva, comments: “A third of employee wellbeing and satisfaction levels are determined by personality types. Personality is fixed but resilience can be developed in employees, and managers are in a great position to ensure their colleagues have the right skills and confidence to grow in their careers during this continued uncertainty. A little insight, the right conversations and skill-building can go a long way to help identify when people may need more support.

“Wherever they are working, people remain a business’ number one asset, and by providing them with the right tailored support, their contribution will be more valuable than ever before. Whilst many employers rightly segment their workforce along demographic lines, it’s critical to include personality type as an additional dimension. This will enable far more targeted interventions and ensure that employers provide the best physical, mental or financial welfare for their employees. The strongest businesses will be those that lead by example and adopt new ways of providing employees with tailored support.

“We believe that employers can play a major role in guiding their employees through ‘The Age of Ambiguity’. By promoting healthier habits and incremental shifts in attitudes and actions, we can empower people to make informed, balanced and positive career and lifestyle choices, whatever 2021 throws at us.”

Aviva recommends the following to help employers better support employees throughout 2021 and ‘The Age of Ambiguity’:

  1. Address individual mental health and wellbeing needs: Most workplaces have some form of mental health support in place for employees to find crucial care for their problems, but these services tend to focus on a ‘one-size-fits all’ solution. Aviva is calling on employers to take the time to uncover and address individual employee concerns and provide tailored support for workers where possible.
  2. Delivery on emerging flexibility needs: Unlike other important outcomes such as wellbeing, different personality types account for just 5% of preferences when it comes to flexible working. This means that flexibility these days is much more than a mere personal preference; it is a universally-desired coping mechanism in the face of unprecedented uncertainty. The law requires employers to consider all flexible working requests after six months’ service, and while this is an ongoing reality for many, it should be considered from day one to attract and retain valuable employees.
  3. Uncover employees’ sense of purpose and increase their autonomy in the workplace: Employee motivation can be increased by enabling greater ownership. When employees don’t feel they are an integral part of a programme, project or initiative, they lack a sense of purpose. Greater autonomy can be achieved by listening to what employees have to say. Providing employees with the opportunity to feed into and develop processes and communications can diminish frustration and disengagement.

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