Finger pressing a keyboard key with the words "Employee Wellbeing" printed on the key

New research reveals how leaders can support wellbeing during change

By Jo Twiselton.

Workplace disruption has been a constant for organisations for years. And wellbeing and resilience were becoming bigger priorities before Covid-19 hit.

The pandemic – one of the biggest and swiftest change programmes we’ve all experienced – put the spotlight on both change and wellbeing.  And it showed that many leaders need to do better in prioritising people and their wellbeing in times of change.

Every week since March 2020 and through times of huge uncertainty, I’ve had conversations that have involved stress, anxiety, overwhelm and in some cases burnout. And these have included leaders too.

I wanted to find out why making people and their wellbeing a priority in times of change can make a difference and understand how we might improve things.  So, I carried out research with leaders across a range of sectors during 2021 to explore this in more depth.

My research findings show how leaders can support wellbeing through times of change and organisation upheaval.

Wellbeing and change report cover

The interviewees shared some great insights and stories of good practice (and some surprises) that every leader could learn from. Here are the headlines:

Organisational change has an impact on people’s wellbeing

When change is introduced, whether it’s positioned as positive or negative and it’s not managed well, several respondents highlighted the detrimental impact it can have on confidence as well as overall wellbeing.

We’re all different – and that applies to change too

The pandemic highlighted this.  We all react differently to what happens around us. As a leader, be aware that this is the case and then work through what this could mean for how you lead change. You’ll be in a better place to lead through change with greater empathy.

Good leadership skills are essential in helping people through change

The role of leaders was mentioned repeatedly, covering subjects from creating clarity to role-modelling and listening. There was a real focus on abilities and skills related to empathy and compassion. Interviewees shared some great examples showing why the role of line managers is important in helping people through change too, underlining the importance of supporting, training and empowering them to manage well in times of uncertainty.

Good communication is essential

This wasn’t a surprise and nor was the fact that everyone I spoke to as part of the research mentioned communication.  Thinking about when and how to share news, body language, the words you use. The list went on. It’s not just about how leaders communicate and engage but the role of communication and change teams in this too.

Recruit for change

This was one of a few surprises for me from the research. Several respondents suggested that organisations need to recruit for change adaptability to deal with an increasingly and rapidly shifting world. Making sure we effectively engage younger generations was highlighted too.

If we’re looking to adapt behaviours more rapidly and get more comfortable with change, we need to make sure that everyone, especially leaders, have the training in resilience and adaptability skills they need.

Learning lessons from a pandemic

Interviewees mentioned the rapid adoption of different working approaches, technology and connectedness and making sure we keep reflecting on what we’re learning (and we’re definitely still learning).

If we need to convince leaders to do more….

Varied and interesting responses to this question which included: talking more about the topics of wellbeing and mental health; drawing on advocates inside organisations; creating and sharing the business imperative for change and the bottom-line benefits too.

Prioritising people, their wellbeing and resilience in times of change is very close to my heart. I’ve been on the receiving end of some shoddily managed change over my career and that set me on a mission to put people and their wellbeing higher up the agenda for leaders. So, I’d love to keep this conversation going.

If you do register and download the report, I’d love to hear your thoughts and ideas, especially if you think any of the findings will help you as a leader or your organisation.


Jo Twiselton is the Founder and Director of Twist Consultants. Jo works as a coach, mentor and facilitator to senior leaders and their teams to help them put people and their wellbeing at the heart of workplace change.


Image by celiaosk on iStock

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