As the Covid-19 situation continues and businesses plan and adapt working patterns HR and Business Leaders must ensure that mental wellbeing must continue to be a priority in their plans.
Leaders, HR and all levels of the business will need extra help, support and guidance on looking after themselves and being able to spot issues and support the workforce.
Some companies have plans in place for the return to office space, yet many companies are telling their workforce there is no intention of a return to office until September 2020 or later, if at all. Whilst these are intended to be clear messages, it can still contribute to employee stress – and reinforces their fears about the future so there are many reasons why mental wellbeing must continue to be a high priority.
The impact of continued remote working, alongside additional pressure of a difficult work life balance, isolation and schooling is adding to the worry, anxiety and associated mental health issues that were already contributing to difficulties within workforces.
Let’s not forget, that BEFORE lockdown there were already 1 in 4 people likely to have some mental health issue in their lifetime. Research from Benenden Health in May 2020 said
“over a third of respondents feel the pandemic has been damaging to their mental wellbeing”
Mental Health issues are often hidden – but have a huge cost to companies if left undiscovered or not dealt with. Again, enhancing the reasons mental wellbeing must continue to be a high priority. The impact is particularly in areas such as:
- Poor employee morale
- Low retention / high attrition
- The cost of high sickness absence
Focusing on mental health and wellbeing needs to be a continuing part of your business plan and HR or Wellbeing Leads need to be ensuring that the plan is well delivered. As Ben Willmott, head of public policy at the CIPD, said “Employers have a fundamental duty of care for physical and mental wellbeing under the Health And Safety At Work Act,”
It’s no longer acceptable to just have the focus on one week of the year, or believe that a few posters about drinking more water and having a cake sale for a mental health charity is going to cut it. (Yes, I really was told that a cake sale was ‘everything’ one company was doing!)
What can you do to improve Mental Wellbeing?
Survey Your Employees Regularly
Have an adequate survey that enables you to gather good feedback so that your employees know that mental wellbeing must continue to be a high priority in the workplace. It also means you’re not guessing about their strengths and difficulties so that you don’t waste money on plans and training that is not needed, as well as ensuring you are meeting their needs. Remember, it’s not enough to just do the survey, you need to ensure you’re responding to the outcomes too in order to increase morale and gain the savings that you would like to see.
Provide Training and Expertise
Getting external support for training, coaching and learning will equip everyone from the Board down to be able to spot signs of stress and struggle in themselves and learn what they can do about it.
For some companies who already have mental wellbeing as a priority and they benefit most from workshops designed for specific topics. Companies that I work with, often have great overall wellbeing plans in place, but have needed additional support in areas like boundaries, resilience and work life balance, especially during Covid-19 and those workshops have helped them complete their wellbeing implementation and ensure that mental wellbeing continues to be a priority.
Educate and Upskill Your Managers
Bringing in specific training will enable you to educate your managers to spot issues, raise any concerns and know how to be supportive and empathic so that they can catch issues early and turn around the negative impact of any situation before presenteeism or absences hit.
It’s not just for your employees that mental wellbeing must continue to be a priority, it might be that your Board level executives need coaching or a high level training session so that they understand the impact of trying to work in a stressful environment and learn the best ways to support the workforce, demonstrate buy in and improve morale.
Knowing how to talk to employees and making time for one to one conversation is crucial in building trusting relationships that result in managers being able to support employees with early interventions.
Improve Work life Balance
Think about what good work life balance looks like for your company. Are flexible working patterns possible – are they really possible logistically or is there a block on the idea just because of a fixed mindset or because it’s what you’ve always done?
The Beneden research said
“more than half of parents whose mental wellbeing has been impacted say balancing working from home and childcare was having a negative impact on their mental wellbeing”
The companies I’m working with are investing in work life balance support because they are seeing that working hours are merging into the evenings and weekends, leaving their employees struggling to switch off or feeling under pressure to get through an incredible workload as well as juggling childcare. However, they also tell me that even those without children are struggling too because there is no differentiation between the workplace and home.
There’s no one size fits all. Depending on sector and role, the impact and need will be different.
Key workers and front line employees will have had different experiences to those working at home and juggling childcare to those living alone. We also need to take into account the different perceptions of people, some are more adaptable and resilient than others.
Support the Supporters
HR and support workers in your organisation may have had additional pressure because they have been supporting others. It’s important not to forget that. So ensure that HR and managers also get the coaching, training or support they need so that they can continue to be there for others.
Overall, companies are working hard to implement wellbeing plans – but with the arrival of Covid-19, it’s important to be responsive. The Benenden report also said that over a third of respondents said they would like more employer support, so by revisiting and revising your wellbeing plan you can make sure that it has the best potential for success and ROI.
If you’d like to discuss how you can
- enhance your company wellbeing plan during Covid-19,
- discuss virtual training options
- ensure your leaders are on board to support the Workplace Mental Wellbeing
This article was previously published on Linked In.