May you live in interesting times
Often purported to be an old Chinese curse, I think we can definitely say that at the moment we are living in interesting times. Work – and indeed all life as we know it – has been turned on its head over the last month, as organisations wrestle with taking their physical businesses online, moving their staff en masse to home working and struggle to keep afloat through the global lockdown.
Employee wellbeing has been on many companies’ agendas for a while. With 300,000 people a year losing jobs because of long-term mental health issues, and a direct cost to employers of £42 billion a year, according to a government-commissioned report, there’s a financial as well as ethical reason to address employee welfare. Supporting this, a Deloitte analysis reveals an average return of £5 for every £1 spent on mental wellbeing by employers.
All well and good in normal times, but when your whole workforce is now home-based, how do employers ensure that their employees’ welfare and mental health are not suffering? At the heart of your company’s ability to ride out the coronavirus storm will be its adaptability, resilience and collaborative efforts. And these are the qualities you need to support in your workers.
So you may be asking how can we, as an organisation, help our employees?
In times of uncertainty, it is the responsibility of managers to be open with their communications. You need to consider what you say. Think about the questions in your team’s minds – what’s changing, how will this affect me, what do I do if I’m struggling? And consider how you can reassure them whilst maintaining honesty. It’s also a good idea to review how you communicate.
Ensure that you are timely, succinct and explicit, and most importantly, empathetic. Convey that whatever happens, you have their best interests at heart.
Look at whether you need to adjust your style
An authoritative style will be a huge benefit in driving forward the changes needed in your company but is not necessarily the best approach to take with your team when to comes to protecting their mental health during a crisis. A good leader can adapt their style and judge the right method for different circumstances. An approach that encourages collaboration, rewards initiative, and encourages teamwork will help to support the mental wellbeing of your staff. Be ready to step in and give direction when needed.
Throw the rule book out
This is far from business as usual. None of us has had to deal with a situation like this before, so don’t worry too much about your usual rules. There will be a massive emotional impact on people who may be isolated at home or trying to work with children and partners in the house. Your team may react differently to how they would in the office, with those reactions driven by uncertainty or fear.
Now more than ever, you need to be accessible, and expect to have to give guidance far more than you usually would. For those staff juggling homeschooling with work, there may be a feeling of guilt that they are doing neither well, which is not good for mental health. Managers need to be really understanding about parents working different hours to fit in with their children’s schedules.
Become the fount of knowledge
There are, of course, limits to what you as a manager can do to protect your team’s mental health remotely. But you can become a portal for directing them to the help they need. Research resources that you can share with people who may need it. For example, hubofhope.co.uk is a website that shows the resources available in your geographical area once you enter a postcode.
With a plethora of online events springing up, look out for webinars and online training that you can personally attend that offer advice on managing employee wellbeing. Collaborate and learn from others to look after workers as best you can.
Finally, you should be encouraging your workers to take responsibility for their own wellbeing. Staying in touch, taking breaks, following government advice, making healthy food choices, and taking regular exercise are things we all need to do to maintain our physical and mental wellbeing during this time.
How is your organisation supporting employee wellbeing during this time? Have you found any great resources or things that work well for you? Do share by commenting below.