The Delicate Balance: Supporting Employee Wellbeing While Meeting Organisational Needs

The Clock is Ticking: Supporting Employees Without Sacrificing Organisational Wellbeing

It’s no secret that employee wellbeing has become a top priority for organisations in recent years. With burnout reaching epidemic levels and mental health struggles on the rise, managers are increasingly focused on supporting their people. But this presents a dilemma: how do you support employee wellbeing without compromising organisational wellbeing?  

As managers, we want to be compassionate and understanding. But we also have responsibilities to the organisation. Deadlines need to be met, goals need to be achieved, and work needs to get done. So where do you draw the line? How do you find the delicate balance between caring for your people while also caring for the business?

In my experience, the key is taking a nuanced approach. As much as we want blanket policies and black-and-white rules, life is filled with shades of gray. Supporting our employees’ wellbeing while meeting organisational needs requires us to make judgement calls, weigh competing priorities, and consider each situation on its own merits. 

Here are a few principles I’ve found helpful for striking the right balance:

Take Time to Understand the Full Context

When an employee is struggling, take time to understand what’s really going on before jumping to conclusions. Is this a one-off bad day, or part of a deeper mental health issue? Is there a temporary personal crisis, or an unrealistic workload? Get the full story before deciding how to respond.

Set Clear Expectations Upfront

Be clear about workflows, responsibilities, and deadlines. That way, if someone genuinely can’t deliver due to wellbeing challenges, you can have an evidence-based conversation about adjustments. Vague expectations only enable people to take advantage.

Offer Flexibility, Within Limits

Accommodate needs when you reasonably can. Let someone shift hours if they’re having insomnia. Grant a day working from home during a stressful time. Provide extra time off for counselling. But don’t allow indefinite flexibility – set clear parameters to avoid potential abuse. 

Open Two-Way Communication

Create an open dialogue. Employees should feel safe being vulnerable about challenges they face. But managers also need to give candid feedback when wellbeing impacts performance. Handle these conversations privately, delicately, but directly.

Focus on Outcomes Over Perfection 

Aim to get the job done, even if work quality suffers temporarily while someone works through a tough time. A good-enough result on time is often better for the business than a perfect deliverable late. 

Set Boundaries Around What You Can Accommodate

While you want to support people, you also need to communicate limits on what’s realistic for the organisation. If deadlines are tight, explain additional delays simply aren’t viable. If absences are straining the team, address that openly. 

Involve HR When Appropriate 

HR partners can provide expertise in managing complex wellbeing situations while ensuring legal and company policy compliance. Loop them in when cases require specialised guidance. 

Look for Sustainable Solutions

The goal is to support employees through challenges, not enable them to avoid responsibilities indefinitely. Offer time-bound accommodations, then work together on strategies to build resilience when they’re ready.

Also Watch for Signs of Enabling

Well-intentioned flexibility can enable unhealthy dependency and avoidance of duties. Notice if accommodations go on indefinitely without improvement. Discuss nagging concerns transparently.

With the right balance of compassion and candidness, patience and accountability, flexibility and structure, managers can handle even the most difficult dilemmas around employee wellbeing versus organisational needs. The solutions won’t always be cut and dry, but when we approach situations with nuance rather than rigidity, we find that win-win outcomes are usually possible with a little creativity and care. The wellbeing of our people and our organisations go hand-in-hand more often than we realise – with the right balance, we can nurture both.