Wellbeing at work has been a hot topic over the last year. If there is any good to come out of the pandemic, it’s that employers are now taking a more active approach to looking after their employees wellbeing and addressing the work-life balance; this has become increasingly blurred over the last decade, thanks to changes in technology.
With Freedom Day fast approaching on 19th July, with it comes uncertainty for those on furlough, but also anxieties for many others. People’s lives have changed dramatically over the last 15 months, and as much as we would like it to, things won’t just go back to normal in an instant. I am already hearing from people that they are having issues with their usual childcare providers over the upcoming summer break, with some not running and some not accepting their usual numbers. And, that’s just one of many practicalities; there has also been a huge impact on people’s mental wellbeing and stress levels too.
World Wellbeing Week took place recently, and I have had so many enquiries from workplaces looking for advice on how to approach the upcoming changes and ease their employees back into working life, so here’s some of my top tips, and what I have been sharing with organisations.
1. Talk To Your People
One of the simplest things you can do with your employees is to be clear, and this is something many people I am speaking with are not doing.
Be clear about what will be happening, when will they be back in? What will the new working situation look like?
This might sound like the most basic piece of information you have ever been given, but so many people fail to do this. When information is missing people fill in the gaps with speculation and stories, and this can further exacerbate stress and anxiety.
So, find out what your people are thinking, devise a plan and then share it ALL.
2. Equip Managers to Deal with Wellbeing at Work
Covid has seen 15 months of continuous change. New rules, new variants…and so on. People do struggle with change (it’s listed in the HSE as one of 6 key areas impacting workplace stress). You’ll remember some of the teething problems when people began to work from home and there will be issues with people getting back into the office too. Some people will have loved working from home, and some will be desperate to get back in, there is no one size fits all.
Make sure you are equipping your managers with the skills and tools to help people deal with wellbeing at work. Organisations are asking me about ways to support managers to have confident conversations so that they build trust and communicate well. It’s hugely important to be able to communicate well and with honesty if you want to safeguard employee wellbeing. Get in touch if this is something I can help you with.
This leads me nicely on to my next topic…
3. Who Can Employees Talk to About Wellbeing at Work?
Does your workplace have somebody who can talk to people? This may sound bizarre but so many people are not good at listening. What we forget is a lot of managers get to where they are because they are good at what they do, but not necessarily great at the people management aspect.
Do your managers feel comfortable talking to people about mental health and wellbeing? Are they able to spot the signs of common signs of struggle or do you need to put training in place? Organisations have been working with me to improve wellbeing at work by having me provide coaching and support packages for their employees. This means that individuals can book directly on a formal or ad-hoc basis to get support where needed. Some people are more open to seeking support or advice from a third-party.
More so than ever, workplaces need to ensure they are looking after their employee’s wellbeing and we are yet to see the full impact of Covid.
Wellbeing and mental health issues are often hidden, but can be a huge cost for companies if left. Low morale can impact productivity, as well as high costs for sickness and absenteeism, and much more.
4. Create a Plan to Improve Wellbeing at Work
Many companies I am speaking with are moving away from being reactive, to being pro-active and this has been great to see. Now is the time to be creating a wellbeing plan for your workplace.
Remember that even BEFORE lockdown, 1 in 4 people were likely to have a mental health problem in their lifetime, according to research from Beneden Health in May 2020.
There are 7 steps to approaching creating a Wellbeing Plan and I share more in the podcast of the same name here
1.What your specific issues are
2. Identify the needs
4. Barriers to success
5. Creating the wellbeing plan
Organisations that I’m working with are creating wellbeing plans that support their people through the entire year so that they ensure it meets specific needs and prevents the need for reactive responses. This has a wider impact on organisations concerns such as reduced presenteeism and absenteeism with improved productivity and retention.
5. Help Create Healthy Boundaries
I could talk about boundaries all day, but this is another issue I am hearing a lot at the moment, and boundaries go hand in hand with wellbeing.
With many companies shifting to hybrid working, this is something that could become a struggle for some people, if it isn’t already. When we worked in the office it was easy to come in and work, then leave. Whereas a year of home working, what was our safe space to relax, now seems full of workplace tools, equipment and reminders of work. A lack of healthy boundaries means work blurs into evenings and weekends.
New research by CIPD showed that presenteeism and leaveism are widespread, with many employees feeling like they can’t switch off. Many employers are tackling this, but two-fifths are taking no action, don’t be one of them!
Organisations I’m working with are investing in workshops and coaching for healthy boundaries so that employees can implement tools and strategies that help them create a structure around work and home demands. This helps them recognise that people are able to prevent the blurring of boundaries will also reduce the risk of becoming exhausted and avoid presenteeism.
6. Keep Talking
Keep talking to and checking-in with your staff. As I mentioned before, things are changing all the time. Continuous talking and even surveying your employees will help identify what you need to be doing and keep you ahead of the change curve and keep stress and anxiety levels lower.
As we transition back to the new normal, it’s so important that you’re supporting your people with the correct tools. For more information on improving wellbeing plans, creating healthy boundaries and many more hot topics, get in touch today. I have a variety of workshops, training and coaching support to help you.
Emma Langton has 10 years experience in supporting mental wellbeing in organisations. She helps leaders with 1:1 coaching and organisations with virtual training and workshops. Emma regularly provides insights on leadership and mental wellbeing on her Lessons for Leaders podcast and has been featured in Forbes, Metro and is a regular contributor to The Press Business Section.