I wrote at the end of last year about not returning to the old ways after the pandemic and, more specifically, the things we should strive to keep from this terrible time.
One thing I didn’t mention then was the extra focus on mental health and employee wellbeing. It’s right and completely understandable, of course, that the spotlight was turned on these things at this time. The dramatic shift in working practices, the uncertainty about… well… everything, and the obvious stresses and pressures that come from living through a global pandemic all prompted us to be more mindful of the wellbeing of our friends, loved ones, colleagues and employees. If enhanced empathy, greater understanding and more consideration were the results of this, then we should all, surely, strive to maintain this even after the pandemic is over.
Oracle’s 2020 report shows that 76% of people believe their employer should be doing more to protect their mental health. For employers, there are many ways of making this happen. Some are larger tasks than others, but all are worthwhile if you want to keep the mental health of your people buoyed.
It may be that your comms strategy needs tweaking to facilitate, encourage (or insist on) more meaningful support and two-way comms with your workers, especially those that are (now) working remotely. Making your meetings, be they face-to-face or remote, truly two-way and interactive gives your people a sense of belonging and empowerment, all of which is good for your people’s mental health.
Lead from the front with openness & transparency. A leader sharing their own vulnerabilities is not a leader showing weakness. It actually builds respect and trust, and nurtures a culture of people looking out for each other and leaning on each other. It’s all part of removing the stigma from mental ill-health.
This is where short videos from the leadership team come into their own – heartfelt, sincere and genuine messages can be hugely beneficial when people are missing face-to-face time. People love to read or hear about people, and if colleagues are willing to share their own stories of their struggles and how they overcame them, or techniques they find useful for facing the tougher times, this can be empowering and cathartic for them as well as being a great way to boost the confidence across the audience to talk about mental health. Again, presenting this as a video can be a superb way of humanising and contextualising others’ experiences and presenting it in a powerful, engaging and uplifting way.
A really easy way to boost the mental wellbeing of your people is to boost appreciation and recognition. You could create and share ‘Thank You’ and ‘Well Done’ e-cards for your people to send. (And lead from the front by sending a few from the senior team!) Even better, you could employ an online appreciation platform that takes away all of the work for you but delivers amazing results for your teams - recognition and appreciation are massively contagious and spreading the love can have a truly uplifting effect on the wellbeing of your people.
I wrote only last week about ensuring your comms are fully inclusive and this can also have a huge effect on the mental health of your people. Needless to say, people who feel in any way excluded tend not to have the best mental health.
Larger (or more pro-active) employers can also consider additional measures, such as nominating specific people as designated listeners. They don’t need to be fully qualified mental health first aiders, just knowledgeable about available services, resources or experts that can help people in their times of need. Badging them up (digitally or physically) with “Here to chat”, “Let’s grab a brew” (or similar) can advertise their presence and availability.
Larger employers should embed mental health into a robust, wider wellbeing strategy and have some pro-active plans in place for championing mental health throughout the year.
And for those of you who like me to close with a list, here are three further quick wins…
Encourage your people to keep active – “healthy body, healthy mind” and all that. There’s lots you can do under current restrictions and without breaking social distancing requirements: step-counts contests, online workouts etc.
Encourage non-work contact – replace those water-cooler chats with online social interactions, Zoom or Teams calls etc. You could even encourage book, film or TV clubs for people to discuss their faves!
Ensure breaks are diarised and taken and a defined work/life balance is maintained – we’ve all fallen into the trap of blurring these boundaries whilst working from home, so encourage your people to guard theirs, and reassure them that it is not frowned upon for them to be unavailable outside their usual hours.
Our mental health can be fragile. The benefits of a robust workforce are clear for all to see. Keeping your employees' wellbeing high in your considerations is the right thing to do - for you, for them and for your business.