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    How the Pandemic Has Affected the Future of Work

    The fourth industrial revolution has shifted our world into a new digital era and the pandemic has accelerated this from a movement to an immediate necessity. Cognizant’s Center for the Future of Work and Oxford Economics’ Work Ahead most recent report, The Work Ahead: Digital First (to Last), examines the most significant trends and tactics for businesses around the world to be aware of and act on if they are to ensure a successful future of work.
    What is clear, now more than ever, is that companies that lagged behind on their digital transformation and those that have not evolved to keep up in this digital era are sure to be hit the hardest, with some at risk of becoming obsolete. In fact, half (49%) of global businesses expect COVID-19 to destroy traditional, non-digital business, as well as those that do not move online aggressively enough. The findings of the report confirm that digital competency is key for the future of work.
    Other findings include:
    The effect of the pandemic on employer/employee relationships
    Business leaders cited employee safety (59%) and worker recognition (58%) as their current key priorities. Employee compensation and safety are understandably a top priority, given how the pandemic has changed the business landscape and forced many companies to make difficult decisions when it comes to staff. But this might change over time as new economic and labor dynamics shape workforce strategies, with new compensation models coming into play.
    However, the pandemic has also shown a need for greater social protections, with almost half of business leaders (45%) expecting better access to pay and benefits for freelancers. More than two-fifths (43%) also expect a drop in pay for highly paid executives. There is no doubt, however, that one of the biggest influences of the pandemic is business leaders’ acceptance of home-working, as two-fifths (41%) foresee HR policies having to be adapted to account for more flexible approaches to remote working in the future.
    The skills needed for advancing in careers are shifting
    The pandemic has left society in a period of existential doubt. Technology has not only caused an adjustment in how we work but galvanized how we think about it. It has raised questions around how we are valued and remain valuable in a world where machines are increasingly automating mundane work.
    The concept of “upskilling” is one that has increased in popularity – centered around human talent acquiring skills and proficiency that even the smartest machines cannot be equipped with. When revisiting our report from 2016, business leaders then were less receptive to the importance of innovation, the ability to create new and better ways of working. However, this concept has grown in recognition among business leaders and is now regarded as the most important skill for succeeding at work.
    On the other hand, “strategic thinking” is a skill that has significantly dropped in importance when compared to 2016, falling from second-ranked to the fifth most important skill for business leaders. This likely reflects the current appetite for disruptive ways of thinking.
    A new appreciation of technologies impact on work and society
    We are clearly entering a new stage in our relationship with technology. A decade into this new digital era and business leaders voice a greater appreciation for the promise and peril inherent in modern technology. There is a better understanding of the power of technology, with more agreeing that digital technologies will positively impact their employment, whether by protecting them from being replaced by robots and AI (44%) or helping them stay employed (46%).
    Unexpectedly, the report showed a decline in business leaders’ belief that digital technologies increase personal efficiency and productivity – in the range of 30 to 40%. This shows insight into the reality of our “always switched on” frame of mind brought on by technology. The additional layers of technology we are now subject to in our virtual working worlds have created an environment where employees are working longer hours, working more intensely, and juggling more demands, but these layers seem to be having the knock-on effect of making many of us less efficient and productive.
    Digital is not the silver bullet we once thought it was
    The core components at the center of this digitized world are the 3 A’s – AI, automation, and analytics. The report revealed that the further business leaders move into their technology implementations, the more they appear to be recognizing that none is a “silver bullet” that can be easily deployed to produce magical results.
    Developing this more mature appreciation for what digital technologies can actually do is an important step of the digital journey for every organization. While companies initially dragged their feet and debated how seriously they should take these 3 A’s, there is now no doubt that combined, they are critical for every organization to stay in business in the great post-COVID reset.
    We are now deep in the era of “digital in practice”
    It is all well and good to think about the future of work, but this report shows how important it is for businesses to act, and now. When COVID-19 took over our lives, business leaders had to scrutinize everything from how and where employees worked, to how they engaged with customers, to which products and services were viable as customer needs and behaviors switched, quite literally, overnight. It is clear now that those businesses with data mastery at their core were the best at pivoting, adapting, and reinventing themselves on the fly.
    And for the companies that are lagging? Digital transformation is no longer a journey, but a key component in staying relevant and fit for purpose. For the businesses that do not consider themselves to be “modern”, you soon will be – otherwise, you could face extinction in this digital era.
    By Euan Davis, European Lead for Cognizant’s Center for the Future of Work.

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    How Royal Caribbean Group Navigates Employer Branding

    “Adventure” isn’t just something Royal Caribbean Group offers its customers. It’s also a love shared by its employees, as well as the key to the brand’s exceptional success at engaging new and diverse talent.
    How do you find the perfect employee when you’re a company as intrepid as an international cruise line? Royal Caribbean Group’s Talent Marketing Manager, Thea Neal, has done it through practices like investing in team morale, practicing inclusion, taking a holistic view of the employee experience, and careful listening.
    The Challenge of Talent Marketing as a Cruise Line
    Building out an authentic employee value proposition for a single organization is difficult enough. It can be even harder when that organization houses six different brands, as is the case with Royal Caribbean Group. Employer brand leaders may encounter hesitancy, as Neal did, from more senior leaders who are wary of defining an EVP that may not feel relevant to all branches and levels.
    Invest in Morale
    To attract and retain the best talent, Royal Caribbean Group makes serious investments in its culture and employees’ well-being. Even during a pandemic, the company has found ways to preserve and adapt its office traditions, like happy hours (now virtual) and Halloween (a staff favorite).
    Practice Inclusion
    Prioritizing diversity and inclusion has helped Royal Caribbean Group attract employees from a range of backgrounds and identities. This has been a special focus of Neal’s team, which recruits talent from around the globe. Cultural context is always top-of-mind for Neal when formulating her employer brand strategy: “The employer brand that I put out in America needs to resonate just as well as the employer brand I put out in the Philippines or Indonesia,” she says.
    Consider the Whole Employee Journey
    Neal’s team frames the employee experience as a journey—in fact, the “Journey with us” tagline appears across Royal Caribbean Group’s careers site, social media accounts, and internal communications. This framing reflects the emphasis they place on supporting people throughout their time with the company, from candidate to alum, and not just on the recruitment process or the “sell.”
    Become a Better Listener
    Neal urges other employer brand leaders to listen to fellow employees as closely as possible, especially when their feedback disrupts your assumptions. “A lot of times, as employer brand folks, we have these rosy glasses on. Sometimes you need that real perspective from an employee to create something better, listen, and evolve,” Neal says.
    This approach to talent marketing has helped Royal Caribbean find perfect-fit candidates that join the family and stay for years (and voyages). These candidates-turned-colleagues share Neal’s love of seeing the world and helping others do the same. It’s a passion that unites the team, regardless of role; as Neal puts it, “Who doesn’t want to sell amazing memories and experiences?”

    To follow Thea Neal’s work in employer brand, connect with her on LinkedIn. For data-driven insights into your company that you can act on, get in touch. We can help you develop strategies for making real change.

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    Giving Back: The Importance of CSR Efforts During COVID-19 Restrictions

    Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is a measure of how businesses stay socially accountable. It is a cornerstone of the identity of many brands, helping shape a positive reputation.
    It is also a key tool in the war for talent, with modern employees valuing companies that make a positive impact and give back to society.
    So, as the current coronavirus pandemic continues to impact businesses, it is crucial CSR efforts aren’t put on the back burner. Instead, businesses should tailor their plans to meet the demands of the new normal.
    The value of CSR
    Modern consumers are more socially conscious than ever, with 70 percent claiming they want to know the brands they shop with are doing their bit to support social and environmental issues.
    Businesses who neglect their responsibility – without a clear and actionable plan for giving back to the local and wider community – are at risk of being left behind and suffering a damaged reputation.
    CSR isn’t just a box-ticking exercise but provides demonstrable value for people. And while it may not be measurable for businesses in revenue or ROI, without it, they will see consumers heading elsewhere.
    Among the benefits of investing in a CSR strategy is creating an accessible ‘human’ identity, which offers valued personalization for consumers. Shoppers enjoy playing their part by supporting businesses that share their success with those who need it.
    It also allows businesses to meet the needs of modern employees. These days, workers want to feel they are part of something bigger than just an office. CSR efforts allow employees to channel empathy, understanding, and support into their work.
    Now more than ever, with so many impacted by the coronavirus pandemic, it’s important those with the resources to provide support to others, do so. While some businesses may not be able to maintain pre-pandemic efforts, they can adjust their CSR offering to provide support in different ways.
    Addressing the challenges
    For thriving businesses, CSR efforts become more viable – whether it’s contributing a more substantial charity pot, or employing a larger team, freeing up members to engage in community work.
    However, when circumstances change, it’s often these non-core business activities that suffer. For example, firms actively cut down on CSR activities during the 2008 global recession.
    As businesses look to cut costs and get back in the green, leaders are forced to justify every outgoing to stakeholders. For these investors – who are often further removed from the business and its local community – CSR efforts can appear a justifiable cutback.
    Not only has the coronavirus pandemic delivered these harsh economic challenges but it also creates additional roadblocks in health and safety. For those which focus their efforts on in-kind giving – for example, volunteering in the community or hosting fundraising events – it’s not safe to continue these efforts in the short-term.
    Shifting the CSR approach
    In times like these, CSR is more important than ever. Businesses have a chance to give back to those who have supported their growth pre-pandemic. Leaders must simply realign their efforts to suit the current climate.
    While some in-person initiatives may be ruled out, like local volunteering days or community clean-up schemes, businesses can still contribute to their communities.
    For example, businesses could take advantage of the office being closed by donating their typical utility fees to local charities.
    Some of our clients have even donated their Christmas party budgets this year – with traditional large office gatherings not possible – and have welcomed positive feedback from employees who are on-board with the gesture.
    However, it doesn’t have to be financial support. The software company, R3, redirected their fortnightly kitchen delivery to three homeless shelters over the pandemic. This saw over £15,000 worth of cereals, fruits, drinks, and more donated to those in need. They also redirected fruit deliveries to local NHS services as a token of their appreciation.
    Consider how your business can give back. Donating items or surplus stock to those hit by the pandemic or offering a discount to local customers or emergency services staff are examples of gestures available to those unable to make financial contributions.
    It’s also important to understand the indirect impact of the business. For example, some of our clients have conducted audits of their partners and suppliers to make sure they’re working with like-minded firms that place similar emphasis on CSR.
    The employee impact
    Considering the importance of social responsibility to modern workers, it’s crucial businesses communicate ongoing CSR strategies and commitments, even as they change.
    This may include inviting employees to participate in the strategy from the start. Consider sending an email to staff, discussing the company’s ongoing CSR policy. Welcome suggestions on new initiatives and local causes which the business can support.
    While it may not be possible to act on every suggestion, businesses can still work with employees to find different ways to make a difference or plan for future efforts. It’s not about solving all the world’s problems but making a genuine difference to as many people as possible.
    Publish a regular round-up of business CSR activities for interested employees. This could be via email and include case studies and images of activities undertaken by the business, as well as information on how individuals can get involved.
    This should also include quotes and case studies from recipients or scheme partners, to help readers understand the scale, reach, and impact of the work.
    It’s been a challenging year and one which has reminded us of the importance of social awareness and support. Businesses currently have a real opportunity to use their CSR efforts to unite the workforce.
    Those able to effectively communicate an accessible and relevant CSR strategy will reap the rewards of an engaged and fulfilled workforce, in talent retention and productivity.
     By Andrew Jones, Head of Everyday Essentials, Express Vending.

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    Post-COVID Office Perks to Attract New Talent

    2020 shook us all, with a pandemic that turned our working world upside down. Employers have had to shift to an office design that accommodates social distancing, but they’re also bringing in new office perks to help make the transition back to the office more inviting for new and existing talent, and better for their employees’ wellness as well as productivity. Let’s take a look at how to make your office more inviting to new recruits.
    Office pods
    Social distancing is paramount for COVID-secure office space and the office pod helps with this greatly. Employees can be separated from one another in their own breakout spaces in pods to get on with tasks. Cell pods allow workers to see through their glass pods, have doors open or shut, so they’re not totally shut off but can still practice social distancing and separation.
    Instagrammable areas
    This speaks mainly to the Gen Z and millennials that are on Instagram, making daily updates, always capturing quirky design, meals, or fun businesses. Offices are changing to provide perks that will attract and entice employees to choose them over other companies in competitive job markets. Areas with fun design, abstract interior, quirky stencil wall art, biophilic decor, or even unique, modern sofas and funky corners are capture-worthy. Don’t be afraid to be different in your office design, add originality and fun with those instagrammable pieces.
    Nick Pollitt, Managing Director of office refurbishment company, Diamond Interiors, says that a place of work isn’t just that anymore:

    “Long gone are the days of cubicles, beige walls, and the nine to five. Nowadays workplaces are fun, dynamic, and have a strong focus on perks and benefits. When dealing with staff, whether they’ve been with you for years or are having their first interview, you have to make a good impression on them as much as the other way around.
    Making your office an aesthetically pleasing place is just as important as getting the work done and going home on time. So if you want to attract and keep the best talent, make sure you make your office an enjoyable place to be.”

    Relaxation rooms
    Whether it’s an office library, a hygge room, or a simple chillout room, companies are seeing the benefits of giving employees space to relax for breaks, lunches, or for times they may need to separate and work quietly. These are perfect for showing a high consideration for staff mental health and wellness.
    Games rooms
    A great office perk to have is a games room. You don’t need to go all out, it could be simply providing a games console, TV, and some comfy office sofas. But, to make it top-level, add some quirky games features like mini snooker tables, desk games, ping pong tables, and puzzles – even a fun jigsaw puzzle.
    Social spaces
    These can be integrated with games rooms but also can be areas where you allow staff to be a little more social. In a post-COVID working environment, it’s all about guidance, policies, and signposting. Make sure to keep clear signs and symbols to show where is off-limits, for instance, mark off where seating is off-limits to maintain social distancing. A social space may have newspapers, magazines, and reading materials to help with social work conversations, especially materials that are niche to certain industries.
    Lee Chambers, an environmental psychologist and wellbeing consultant, stresses how beneficial office perks like games rooms and social spaces are to employees’ mental health:

    “The allow employees to disconnect from role-related tasks and take a break, allowing them to connect more fully to the next task when they return. It also facilitates non-work-related communication, which is an essential element of social connection and workplace relationships. Social spaces can also reduce stress, allowing employees to move from their desk and change the scene.”

    Positive effects on staff
    As Chambers points out, the mental effects of office perks are extremely positive for staff – enabling them to reconnect with each other and build healthy working relationships. He also understands how they work in sync with improved productivity. For instance, social spaces and rooms for activities “create an important break in our working patterns that allow us to remove ourselves from cognitive work tasks and regenerate, so we have the ability to return to work with more focus, concentration, and energy.”
    Chambers goes on to highlight that office perks, or rather employers who value them, allow “employees who may not often get to talk a chance to connect”. They also come with creative, productive benefits as “many innovative ideas have come from a workplace social as the typical barriers of work are eroded. These relationship links forge greater company morale, give employees a feeling of connection and purpose outside of work, and give employees something to anticipate and look forward to.”
    There’s no doubt that 2021 is going to be unlike any year we’ve experienced so far. The only thing we can do is make the most of it and try to work as efficiently and safely as possible. What do you think of these 2021 office trends?

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    What Should Your Holiday Work Celebration Look Like This Year?

    Hard as it is to believe, 2020 is finally drawing to a close. The year has brought more challenges than expected, and most are far from over. But as the holidays approach, many are looking forward to a much-needed break, spending time with friends and family, and recovering from the most mentally fatiguing year in…
    What Should Your Holiday Work Celebration Look Like This Year? Undercover Recruiter – More

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    Adapt or Fail: Why Employers Need to Redesign their Workplace Culture

    The Coronavirus pandemic has dramatically changed the way people live and work — forcing British businesses to pivot to new, digital, and remote ways of working. But, while many of these continue to manage, how many will truly thrive in the months – and perhaps years – to come?
    Today, as many companies pass the eight-month mark of remote working, and with no clear end in sight, working from home is no longer the exception, it’s the rule. But despite the advantages remote working has to offer, our latest research revealed that ‘hidden fractures’ are emerging among workforces, which risk causing irreparable damage to cultures and productivity.
    To ensure their businesses remain resilient – and prevent them from being permanently held back – it’s clear that employers need to take a proactive approach to manage and, in some cases repair, their workplace culture. The time to take action and rethink the employee experience is now; and here are four things employers should focus on:
    Design for remote
    First and foremost, business leaders need to design for remote. Indeed, when it comes to creating a positive company culture – that’s vital for a stable workforce – the same old tactics that were used pre-pandemic won’t work. Employers need to redesign the employee experience to ensure that people feel supported and connected with other team members as well as part of the same experience, wherever they are.
    For instance, just because your workforce isn’t together in the office, it doesn’t mean you can’t create meaningful experiences at key moments in employee life-cycles – at a distance. That could involve providing a new hire with a starter pack and a virtual buddy during onboarding, sending a bottle of fizz to newly promoted staff, or bringing the team together virtually to give a heartfelt farewell to a colleague who’s leaving. If effectively supported, these key moments can positively shape sentiment towards employers, roles, and colleagues.
    Continuously build familiarity
    When people are working in the office, familiarity — that is, feeling part of a team and being able to talk to colleagues and be heard — helps breed successful teamwork and a trust-based culture. But with everyone working from home, it’s easy for relationships to become momentary and transactional — a short video call here or an instant-message there, followed by weeks of nothing. And yet, familiarity is a critical outcome of employee experience, so businesses need to find new ways to weave it into every touchpoint.
    In our research we found that things like recognition for work well-done (33%) and being able to access support and guidance when needed (31%) aren’t just ‘nice to haves’ — they are the most important elements for creating a next-level workplace culture. When these are absent, the workplace culture is viewed as negative – and trust levels nosedive.
    But it doesn’t have to be this way – employers can continue to build and nurture relationships and instill a sense of familiarity by other means. Digital culture platforms, for example, could offer the solution many are looking for. These allow employers to create a space – outside of work channels – dedicated to building culture and familiarity, that all employees can participate in, as and when they please. If they’re to re-create familiarity in their remote workforce, businesses need to think differently and innovatively about how they can keep workplace connections alive and drive meaningful conversations and interaction.
    Strengthen employee networks
    As much as relationship-building is important, it’s also vital to nurture and support the development of peer networks that employees are reliant on for support, guidance, and reassurance. In fact, the cracks in networks are already starting to show, with 51% of employees saying they feel it’s harder to reach out for help from teammates when working from home. This should be a key concern for employers because when employees feel unable to lean on their peers for support and guidance, they can become increasingly anxious and more reliant on their Line Managers as a result. This, in turn, can create pressure points within the organization, causing productivity to plummet.
    Pre-pandemic, peer networks that extended outside of work teams were commonplace – something that has been altered by home-working. At a time when many people feel less visible and connected, it’s clear that businesses need to re-examine their remote working models and create the right channels to ensure employees feel seen, heard, supported, and trusted – and to help them to connect and thrive.
    One way to do this is by celebrating and acknowledging employee wins and achievements in a way that is long-lasting and is seen and heard by everyone across the business. Whether it’s highlighting their achievements over a company-wide video call or updating the team on a digital newsfeed that can be read by the whole organization, employees will feel recognized and appreciated. It’s by adopting these types of creative culture initiatives that employers can help remote workers to feel more ingrained in their business and encourage a more positive and connected workplace culture, no matter where employees are working.
    Measure and track culture
    Finally, in order for employers to effectively keep their finger on the pulse of workplace culture, it’s critical that they measure employee experience and culture. But traditional employee surveys aren’t necessarily the best option, as they’re often slow to implement and can cause survey fatigue when overused. Instead, managers and business leaders should look for ways to harness real-time and consistent culture analytics. By implementing pulse surveys more intelligently (and less frequently) they can benchmark measurements and use findings to help build and maintain an effective and happy remote workforce.
    For many organizations, returning full-time to an office is unlikely to happen any time soon and we believe that in the longer-term many companies will embrace hybrid working practices, as employees look to get the best of both worlds during their working week. But whether businesses are planning for it or not, it’s important to realize that remote working is here to stay, and not just in the short term. In order to protect their workplace culture and their company, employers need to redesign their thinking and adapt their employee experience to this new reality. Those that fail to evolve risk being held back and those that embrace the change will stay one step ahead, now and in the future.
    By Marcus Thornley, CEO of Totem.

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    What Student Job Seekers Really Want from Recruitment Post COVID-19

    A new report reveals how marketing and recruitment processes should be organized to ensure your business is attractive to student job seekers. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the class of 2020 are facing unprecedented challenges when it comes to trying to secure their place on the career ladder. Debut and the Institute of Student Employers (ISE) came together to survey 2,000 students about what they wanted to find from employers, their attitudes to COVID-19, and how they feel about their career prospects.
    One of the stand-out findings from the report shows that despite the pandemic and all of its challenges, 94% of students are excited to start work, with 42% still confident they will find their dream job upon completion of education.
    A rapidly changing world has led to rapidly changing career paths
    Before the pandemic hit, most students had a solid idea of how they would like their careers to go, including the paths they were going to take to get there. Now, 6 months on from the start of the pandemic, 57% of students say they are changing their ideas around their careers in light of the new challenges. Students are still determined to make the most of the opportunities presented to them though, with 74% still strongly focused on their career path, even if it’s not in the direction they originally thought it would take.
    Fair treatment is the most important factor when choosing a job
    For 98% of young job seekers and students surveyed, receiving fair treatment in the workplace was the most important factor when choosing a job or employer to work for. Being fair to your employees and mindful of the struggles they have faced in this over-competitive job market will go a long way to help them feel valued.
    Many have also stated how they would like to work for an organization that would allow them to ‘have it all’. Simply put they would like to work for an organization that provides a clear career path, work/life balance, interesting work, decent pay, and a strong stance on ethical standards while working alongside like-minded people.
    Communication and the recruitment process
    Students and young job seekers prefer formal methods of communication such as email and LinkedIn to be used when talking to prospective employers about their employment choices, with 95% and 90% respectively, in agreement with these channels. Some students said they would be comfortable with employers communicating with them through blogs (37%), Instagram (36%), Twitter (33%), or Facebook (28%) however most are skeptical about this approach as they feel it encroaches on their more personal platforms. Make sure you’re approachable yet professional in your communication methods with prospective employees, as the wrong type of method could turn them away from your organization.
    During the recruitment process itself, 91% of respondents said they preferred a face-to-face approach, but with the limitations on face-to-face interactions the pandemic has set on people, there is a greater emphasis on calls and video interviews. Luckily 86% said they were comfortable with an online approach where it was necessary, but the main concern was that a third of students don’t trust employers to actually treat them fairly during the recruitment process. We’re all going through a difficult time right now and it’s worth remembering that these students are potentially facing challenges no other generation has done before them, so empathy could go a long way during your recruitment process.
    Job seekers are hungry for information
    When communicating with potential employees, make sure you are providing them with as much information as possible about how to succeed in the recruitment process and what information you’re looking for in applications. Remember, when someone is looking for a job they aren’t just selling themselves to you, you’ve got to sell yourself to them too to make them want to work for you. Providing information on your company’s culture, including testimonials from current employees, career prospects, training, and social opportunities are key things to communicate during the recruitment process.
    Now more than ever though, students and job seekers are interested in what an organization is doing for charities and community work. They are looking for opportunities to get involved in volunteering as part of the positions they are applying for, to help the initiatives throughout the company.
    Excitement and enthusiasm are high despite the challenges
    Overall, despite everything that 2020 has thrown at them, 94% of students are excited to get started in the world of work, with 93% even willing to start remotely if they need to. There seems to be a great understanding amongst students that they need to be flexible and adaptable in the current climate, even if that means starting off their careers at home, getting involved in online inductions, and remote working for now if needed.
    The main worry seems to be focused on finding the opportunities available to them rather than making the most of the opportunities that are presented to them.
    Michele Trusolino is co-founder and chief operating officer of Debut, the student careers app that is revolutionizing the recruitment sector.

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    How to Deal with Changing COVID-19 Regulations

    Research shows nearly half the population has reported feeling worried and stressed since the onset of the COVID-19 global pandemic earlier this year.
    With new health and safety measures at work to familiarise yourself with, constantly changing government regulations, and the future of the physical workplace remaining unclear, it’s hardly a surprise the mental health of both employers and their staff has deteriorated.
    The effects of seasonal changes can be profound too. the length of daylight, the intensity of the sunlight, and how and where we spend our time can all impact our mental health.
    It’s common for people to feel more tired, unmotivated, and depleted in the colder months. Anxiety may also increase as these changes can create an unsettled response in the human body.
    I discuss the best employee mental health support businesses can provide to help individuals struggling with uncertainty.
    How uncertainty affects mental health
    ‘Is my job safe?’ ‘Will my pay be reduced?’ ’Will I be back in the office soon?” ‘Will we be in lockdown again?’
    The ongoing pandemic has contributed to many questions being raised, which we are yet to still find answers to – especially where the workplace is concerned. Because of this many are finding uncertainty more uncomfortable, especially as some employees now face uncertainty regarding multiple aspects of their lives, which may have previously felt within their control.
    Of course, nothing in life is entirely certain but for some, the current situation has triggered uncomfortable emotions and scientific research suggests it’s important businesses have strategies in place to support employees with uncertainty’s psychological and physical impact on the body.
    Research suggests there is a link between high intolerance of uncertainty and anxiety, depression, and obsessive-compulsive difficulties. Uncertainty can also have a physical impact on the body due to the ongoing impact of stress hormones.
    The physical effect includes impaired memory, diabetes, digestive functioning and impact on our cardiovascular system
    How can businesses provide the right emotional support for staff?
    Employee benefits propositions should be designed and updated with emotional support in mind, giving staff access to the tools they need to cope during stressful or uncertain periods.
    The emotional impact of COVID-19 on each employee will be different and the support on offer from employers should reflect this. However, worryingly, a recent survey revealed that only 15 percent of employers had asked staff to identify their needs during this difficult time.
    Understanding the workforce is therefore essential and enables employers to tailor the most useful benefits proposition. This means getting to know employees through surveys, online forums, and one-to-one chats, recognizing their needs and priorities.
    Offerings should include a combination of services that give employees access to specialists with whom they can discuss their difficulties and learn positive coping mechanisms.
    Highlight existing workplace offerings like employee assistance programs (EAPs) which offer direct, confidential contact with counselors and mental health experts.
    You could also consider inviting an expert to give a company talk on general coping mechanisms for anxiety. This may help those who are worried about speaking to managers or employers about their fears.
    If face-to-face offerings aren’t currently possible, telephone or online CBT sessions are useful in helping employees tackle unhelpful thinking patterns or in learning practical coping techniques. Consider investing in online workshops or webinars, which can assist everyone in recognizing signs of stress and equip them with the confidence and skills to support others.
    For example, emotional literacy training is an effective tool for boosting employee resilience by ensuring staff has a common language to discuss mental health.
    At Nuffield Health, over 12,000 employees (of 16,000) have successfully completed emotional literacy training. Following this training, 94 percent said they’d feel confident supporting a colleague showing signs of emotional distress.
    In conjunction, we also offer Mental Health Awareness training workshops. This develops Mental Health Champions in the workplace, who, in combination with line managers, are empowered to raise understanding around mental wellbeing and to help others access the right support at the right time.
    It’s also important to ensure connectivity for members of staff who are still self-isolating or if businesses remain working from home. Those continuing with prolonged remote working may face psychological hazards linked to increased loneliness and isolation.
    Supporting employees with remote therapy of their choosing, either by video, phone, or email, provides an additional expert support network while away from their colleagues.
    By Brendan Street, Professional Head of Emotional Wellbeing, Nuffield Health.

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