COVID-19 changed many employees’ work routines, both in positive and negative ways.
As a result of long-term remote working, many companies are considering introducing hybrid working models, giving staff the option of combining working from home with going into the office.
However, hybrid working could also have a significant impact on employee mental health with many reporting symptoms of ‘hybrid burnout’.
Burnout is defined as a phenomenon ‘resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.’ In 2020 it became a recognized condition by the WHO.
Hybrid burnout is the result of juggling long hours working from home with commutes to offices, which can not only be physically exhausting but also take a considerable toll on employee stress levels.
But what can businesses do to help employees manage the physical and mental health implications of a hybrid working environment?
1. Recognize the signs
Individuals in management should become aware of the signs and symptoms caused by hybrid burnout, as well as what they can do to prevent or respond to it.
Staff may become fatigued, forgetful, and struggle to concentrate, with so much going on around them. Early on, this may make people feel worried, irritable, on edge, or tense.
Further down the line, this anxiety – caused by juggling multiple work environments- may become so severe that it affects professionals’ ability to work productively (or at all).
There are also potential physical symptoms to consider, like heart palpitations, shortness of breath, dizziness, and headaches.
2. Assess company culture
A Gallup study revealed the main causes of burnout are not the nature of the work itself, rather, how a person is treated and managed while they are working.
Consider how different leadership approaches might impact employees. For example, behaviors like bias or unfair corporate policies can cause stress and lead to overworking, with staff feeling a need to ‘prove their worth’.
Make certain that healthy work behaviors are modeled from the top. Help employees understand their value to the company and their contributions to the organization’s goals. Employees feel more valued, and display more motivation in the workplace if, and when, they understand their exact role in the greater purpose.
Take a few minutes each week to update employees on company news and how your team’s actions are contributing to the company’s overall success.
Also, make time to tell staff specifically what you value about their contributions. Try to build this into your regular routines, perhaps by starting your team meetings with shout-outs acknowledging the accomplishments of individual team members.
3. Encourage conversations
As well as ensuring all staff feels appreciated and comfortable in their roles, managers need to ensure they demonstrate to their teams that the business has an open, supportive and welcoming approach when staff are distressed or finding it difficult to cope.
Employees need to feel conversations about difficulties surrounding work are both welcomed and expected.
This requires employers to feel empowered to enable better conversations about mental health in the workplace. At Nuffield Health, we introduced Emotional Literacy training for all staff.
92 percent of whom took the training stated they felt able to support a colleague in distress. Initiatives like this build an open community, and a common language, encouraging more people to say “I’m not OK” and ask others “Are you OK?”.
Employees should also be signposted to any other designated people, like, mental health champions for additional support.
4. Communicate set policies
It’s important company policies that promote good work/life balance are widely communicated. With hybrid working, this means using multiple channels to ensure you reach all employees, whether it’s through company social media platforms, emails, or even by text alerts.
Actively nurturing and promoting reasonable work hours, including, if necessary, encouraging employees to go home, when in the office late, or messaging them to ‘go offline’, at the end of their regular workday if you recognize a pattern of unhealthy overworking.
Help assess workloads for those who feel pressured to remain working beyond normal business hours and let them know there is always support available and additional resources to help them manage mounting projects or multiple deadlines.
Sometimes employees simply don’t realize these are things they are welcome to ask for.
5. Provide professional emotional wellbeing support
A recent Nuffield Health whitepaper revealed spending more than 2.5 days a week working away from the office can be associated with deterioration in co-worker relationships and job satisfaction.
For those having difficulty with the balance between remote and office life, consider introducing professional wellbeing support like Employee Assistance Programmes (EAPs) and timely access to effective psychological therapy (such as Cognitive Behaviour Therapy).
These interventions can be delivered remotely or face to face and give individuals access to a specialist who can help them understand and break unhelpful thinking patterns and “what if” thinking that may exacerbate stress and burnout in uncertain times.
By Gosia Bowling, National Lead for Emotional Wellbeing, Nuffield Health.
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COVID-19 changed many employees’ work routines, both in positive and negative ways.
Research shows nearly eight out of 10 menopausal women are in work, with many in senior leadership positions.
However, despite the evident disruption of the transition to those at the peak of their careers – and the resulting wider workplace impact – menopause remains a largely unspoken and unsupported taboo.
That’s why Nuffield Health is pioneering a change to the way we approach menopause in the workplace, using behavioral science and health psychology to promote inclusive and supportive environments.
The research on menopause in the workplace
The menopause transition is experienced differently by each individual, making it only more concerning that so many are having to manage their symptoms in silence. Understanding experiences is key in providing relevant interventions.
For example, research shows one in four women experience serious menopause symptoms. This may include feelings of depression and anxiety and difficulty sleeping. 60 percent of women also report poor concentration and forgetfulness during the menopausal transition.
As a result, daily tasks can become a challenge. Individuals may have difficulty focusing when reading text, lose confidence when speaking with – or in front of – others, and even miss deadlines due to impaired memory.
Even for those who don’t experience the psychological symptoms of menopause, the workplace can still be a place to avoid. Busy and stuffy environments can exacerbate physical symptoms such as hot flushes and headaches.
The role of behavioral science
Research tells us that employees don’t need the workplace to ‘manage their menopause’ or their symptoms. What they want is an environment that recognizes their experiences and provides the right support to enable them to thrive and reach their full potential.
This understanding, combined with a behavioral science approach, helps businesses do more than just understand menopausal issues – driving tangible change and creating an inclusive and supportive environment.
Inviting external experts to run seminars or workshops, as well as running internal training sessions, helps employees in the workplace adopt helpful and positive behavioral changes and contribute to building a ‘menopause friendly’ workplace.
This includes both menopausal individuals, who feel more confident in speaking about their difficulties, as well as non-menopausal individuals who better understand the challenges and are able to adopt more helpful behaviors to support colleagues.
Keeping these sessions short and regular boosts engagement and buy-in, too. Busy employees find 15–45-minute sessions accessible and are more likely to retain information, while addressing these topics every few months means the organization is better able to support new starters, too.
Evaluating the impact of these sessions by measuring attendee knowledge and attitudes helps businesses better understand how menopause is understood and experienced in the workplace, helping to plan future strategies for building healthy and inclusive work environments.
Practical solutions for businesses
Although menopause is largely covered under three protected characteristics: age, sex, and disability discrimination, conscientious businesses should have a menopause policy that goes beyond legal tick boxes. Appropriate policies should cover the adjustments available to those experiencing menopause and be communicated to the whole team. There is no point in having a policy if nobody knows it exists.
While creating a comprehensive menopause policy, businesses must also recognize individuals who are experiencing difficulties and in need of support. Here, the question becomes ‘what can I do to support you today?’. Whilst employers may not currently be able to provide a full suite of interventions, everyone is able to initiate helpful conversations that recognize individual experiences and identify any support needed.
Practical solutions for managers
Around 4 in 10 women who have gone through menopause felt they were unable to talk about it at work, especially with their manager.
Team leaders are often seen as the first line of support for struggling employees. So, it’s important they are equipped to hold conversations around menopausal challenges and are confident in signposting team members towards additional support. This may include understanding the reasonable adjustments the business can offer, such as flexible and remote working, shift changes, adequate breaks, rest areas, and access to toilets and washing facilities.
Similarly, upskilling emotional wellbeing champions to provide support to those experiencing menopause gives individuals alternative points of contact where meaningful and supportive conversations can take place.
Practical solutions for peers
Everyone has a role to play in easing the negative impact of menopause in the workplace and colleagues can play their part by engaging in any available training and educational sessions. Simply being aware of others’ experiences can reduce stigma and make it less daunting for individuals to speak about their experiences or seek help.
Employees should also be aware of the impact of their language. By simply moving away from a medicalized vocabulary when discussing menopause – towards a more relatable model of distress, which is something we can all relate to – we can reduce the stigma around the transition.
Similarly, hosting Menopause Exchange Forums – with both men and women – encourages informal conversations around symptoms, struggles, and the sharing of tips and coping mechanisms. These can then be supplemented with informal messenger chats where people can share their experiences day to day and provide each other with mutual support.
Practical solutions for individuals
The first step for individuals is to talk. Speaking with colleagues, employers, and health specialists helps menopausal employees feel they are not alone and that their experiences are common and valid.
Menopausal women commonly attribute their symptoms to anything other than menopause, due to ongoing stigma and feelings of shame or embarrassment. However, by communicating their experiences they will be able to find the support they need from those around them. This may include support in managing their workload to compensate for memory loss or even access to more formal support offered by the business.
For example, emotional wellbeing support such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) or EAPs provides access to specialists who can help individuals understand and manage their psychological symptoms. This in turn can also help alleviate physical symptoms, as when stress is well managed, cortisol levels drop which helps reduce physical difficulties associated with menopause transition.
By Gosia Bowling, National Lead for Emotional Wellbeing, Nuffield Health.
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‘Putting your own life jacket on, before helping others’
Research shows employees are putting in an average of 9 hours of unpaid overtime per week.
Does this surprise you? Probably not.
Overwork culture – with long hours and constant exhaustion- is still seen as a badge of honor within the workplace. This is despite the WHO revealing the negative long-term implications of such behavior, including exhaustion, burnout, and a possible deterioration in mental health.
So, why do many of us managing others still lead in this counterproductive way?
Badge of Honor
There are lots of practical factors connected to overworking and taking on as many tasks as possible that are thrown our way. But socio-economic factors associated with ‘overworking’ are also deeply ingrained in our workplace culture.
Many of us simply work long hours to keep our jobs, pay off debt, or so we’re first in line for that long-awaited promotion.
For those that adopt a culture of long, intense work hours, there’s often a performative element involved. Overwork is often seen as a peculiar sign of success.
Whether this is defined by a fancy job title or lifestyle, or even by demonstrating actual exhaustion, the ‘kudos’ associated with overworking hold firm.
Overworking also depends on the industry type and role you are in. For example, people in jobs geared towards helping others, like line managers, tend to work longer hours that can result in physical and emotional exhaustion.
Enter the global pandemic
The pandemic has intensified negative work behaviors across all work hierarchies, with COVID culture impacting employees, line managers, and senior leaders.
While working from home has its perks, it also means there is technology around us continually throughout the day. There is not a clear separation between ‘being at work’ in a working environment and ‘being at home’.
Financial volatility also rose during this timeframe, which drives many companies to act with a ‘we need to get more done for less’ attitude.
Worryingly, mass redundancies and furlough schemes meant higher workloads, stricter deadlines, and increased concerns about job security. As a result, many managers took on a lot of this extra strain to cover the workloads of newly missing team members.
Making yourself accountable
Overworking is usually a top-down issue. It can only be tackled by a fundamental shift in management behavior. One of the big worries is many individuals in leadership positions are persuaded there’s no problem with it.
However, managers should acknowledge the risk of burn-out and a decline in mental and physical health if they continue to work in this way.
Furthermore, they are modeling unhealthy behaviors to their teams, which could have far-reaching adverse side effects. As more employees follow your example, the more likely it is that physical and mental health issues spread to become a company-wide epidemic.
What’s more, it’s not helping companies either. Employees who are feeling an imbalanced state of well-being are 33 percent more likely to seek a new role elsewhere. In contrast, when an employee experiences positive well-being, this drops to 8 percent.
Considering such findings, managers need to look at ways to protect their mental health and wellbeing, which can be mirrored to their teams, encouraging others to follow suit.
Where to start
Start small. Take those breaks. Make sure you’re taking all your annual leave, and delineate some time where devices are turned off, and you don’t look at them. Everyone needs some clear headspace and others need to know this is a company-wide expectation.
Get a temperature check on how those around you feel about their workloads by running a few short, informal meetings, either online or in-person, so teams don’t feel further stressed.
There are unexpected benefits to caring for employees who feel unable to switch off from work. More employees will be loyal to you, as a manager, if you recognize signs of distress and urge them to take time out.
Promoting emotional health
Leading by example is easier to achieve if you feel confident in doing so.
You need to be aware of the support offerings provided by your workplace. A useful workplace wellbeing strategy blends physical offerings like private health assessments, onsite or subsidized gym memberships with emotional wellbeing support.
Liaising with HR and ensuring policies contain these perspectives is important. Ask about the possibility of additional training in Mental Health Awareness, to help you notice the signs of possible mental health issues in yourself and others.
Company offerings like employee assistance programs (EAPs) and cognitive behavioral therapy may be something to discuss as a permanent investment. The presence of an emotional wellbeing therapist in the workplace communicates clearly that conversations about mental health are welcome and expected.
Digital or virtual therapy solutions can be effective too. Remember, for many people, the notion of sharing a vulnerability or admitting a problem, is a barrier in itself. However, some research suggests psychotherapy conducted online is as effective as face-to-face sessions. During 2020 Nuffield Health therapists delivered 3.7 million minutes of therapy remotely.
Encouraging physical activity
Evidence suggests that executives who look after their physical health are more effective leaders. Frequent exercise boosts brain health, improving memory function and the ability to process new information. Exercise can also improve sleep, which is often disrupted by stress, depression, and anxiety.
It is important physical health is not overlooked in workplaces where there are high-stress levels and a culture of long work hours.
The less anxious you are and the better you are at reacting to the circumstances around you, the better you’ll work under pressure.
Managers should look for gaps in their routines where they could replace something sedentary with exercise.
Why not try shaking up work routines with activities by organizing ‘walk and talk’ meetings? These can make gatherings more efficient as employees are likely to become energized than lethargic during a brisk walk.
As restrictions begin to lift, take advantage of any offerings from your company like discounted or free memberships to local gyms, classes, or taking part in a sponsored workplace group in a charity event like a fundraising run. Encourage people to join you, to increase physical activity across your teams.
For those working from home, continue to offer a level of flexibility for when people exercise. This is so employees feel comfortable exercising when it is convenient for them. It’s important those who began a fitness routine at home do not stop because they feel guilty working out when others are in the office.
By Gosia Bowling, National Lead for Emotional Wellbeing, Nuffield Health.
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Pre-Covid, the professional services industry was already focusing on ways to better foster employee mental health. However, the pandemic has greatly amplified the need for wellbeing support across the sector, with the impact of working from home and the broader health impacts of the virus taking a growing toll.
This should come as a warning shot to professional services businesses – well-known to often be fast-paced and high-intensity workplaces even before the pandemic. Indeed, poor mental health has a very significant economic cost to employers, with recent research from Deloitte putting the cost to UK employers at up to £45 billion each year (a rise of 16% since 2016).
Put simply, employee wellbeing is no longer something that businesses can afford to overlook. From embracing more flexible post-pandemic working to tackling ‘always on’ culture, forward-looking firms are already starting to benefit from investing in the long-term mental health of their staff. What’s more, recruiters and hiring managers are going to need to highlight their firms’ mental health policies during hiring processes earlier and with more prominence than ever before.
The impact of the pandemic
One of the most significant and lasting impacts of the pandemic has been the mass exodus of workers from offices to home working environments – this shift has had a significant impact on people’s mental health. In fact, according to recent research by ‘Divided Together’, 49% of UK professional services employees experienced a drop in the quality of their mental wellbeing during the first lockdown in 2020, with 44% saying they ‘were making an effort to seem upbeat when they didn’t feel it’.
This overwhelming decline in worker mental health can partly be attributed to the solitary nature of working from home, but it is also a result of reduced concentration levels. Professional services respondents attributed this mental health deterioration to missing their usual routine (46%), finding it hard to concentrate (44%), being worried about the health of others (43%), or spending more time alone (36%).
With restrictions easing, long-term remote working policies have been the topic de jure. However, it is how people will return to their offices that have the greatest significance for mental health. In a recent Totum Partners survey, more than 70% of firms said they are considering implementing some form of hybrid working policy in the future (some days spent in the office each week, others working from home). Done well, hybrid working can offer huge benefits to employees, providing everyone with long-term flexibility, all-important face-to-face contact, and critically, better balance for worker mental health.
Therefore, companies looking to hire new talent will need to show that their firm is willing to adopt hybrid working policies while also being able to balance the mental health needs of their current employees. With a larger proportion of new recruits asking about mental health policy and hybrid working in interviews than ever before, hiring managers and recruiters need to highlight this company attributes at a much earlier stage.
The ‘always on’ work culture
A further wellbeing consideration that has come to light as a result of the pandemic is the risk of the ‘always-on’ culture. Presenteeism and the inability to switch off was a growing concern already prevalent before the pandemic, but taking the workplace home has only intensified the pressure for employees to be constantly available, with people finding it more difficult to separate home and work life. This has been especially challenging for workers that have not had the benefit of a home office and have found themselves working from the kitchen table or at makeshift desks.
Addressing ‘always on culture’ and encouraging employees to set boundaries between work and home life must be a top priority for businesses in the post-pandemic era. In fact, those businesses that equate more hours with greater productivity, stand to lose not only the best talent and the best their employees can offer, but they also stand to bear the financial cost of workers’ mental ill-health.
When recruiting new talent, it is equally important to show prospective employees that the business they are interviewing for respects the need for a good work-life balance, especially in a world where the ‘always-on’ culture has become second nature.
A perfect time to find an effective solution
There’s little doubt that the pandemic has created a significant challenge for worker mental health – a shadow epidemic in its own right. However, the pandemic also serves as a watershed moment to address the issues that have faced workers even prior to Covid. Now is the perfect opportunity to address the deep-seated issues concerning mental health within some parts of the professional services sector. Those that fail to seize this opportunity, will not only pay the price in lost talent, but they will also see the impact on their bottom lines.
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When COVID-19 struck this time last year, most employees were forced to work from home. One of the results of enforced remote working is the rise in the number of people experiencing insomnia. One in four people reported sleepless nights and Google searches for the word “insomnia” surged significantly, with searches peaking most often during the early hours at 3am.
Whilst COVID restrictions may be lessening, a natural return to healthy, regular sleep-wake cycles is not guaranteed in a new hybrid work environment. In this article, I discuss the future of sleep in a post-pandemic workplace and why employers need to provide workplace support for better sleep.
‘Coronasomnia’ – why the nation is having trouble sleeping.
The pandemic and social isolation have unsettled daily routines that usually serve as timekeepers for our natural body clocks. Keeping track of the time, and even the day, can be difficult without our usual time “anchors” like driving to the office, going to the gym after work, or picking up children from school.
Research shows it can take four days to fully recover from just one hour of lost sleep. So, if we are ‘missing’ the recommended 7-9 hours, over time, a sleep deficit is caused. This makes it difficult to catch up on sleep and enhances the chances of sleep deprivation symptoms.
Uncertainty also plays a significant part in affecting sleep, as it often causes anxiety that unsettles sleep as a racing mind keeps the body tossing and turning. When will I get my vaccine? When can I travel or see my family? How long will lockdowns last? So much was (and still is) unknown.
The impact of sleep deprivation on employee productivity and physical and emotional health
Continuous poor sleep has a major impact on employee productivity with it estimated to cost the UK economy £37bn a year. Studies show that sleep deprivation leads to poor concentration and slower reaction times, which can lead to accidents and costly errors. From an emotional health viewpoint, lack of sleep results in higher levels of stress hormones in our bodies which, in turn, can increase feelings of anxiety, anger, and depression.
Even if you receive enough sleep at night, if that sleep is of poor quality it can leave you feeling tired and unmotivated in the morning with decreased energy and concentration. 1-2 poor days of sleep per week increases the risk of employee absence by 171 percent.
Physical symptoms of long-term sleep deprivation can manifest in a weakened immune system, causing regular infections and colds. Without adequate sleep, your body makes fewer cytokines, a type of protein that targets infection and inflammation, effectively reducing the body’s immune response.
Long-term sleep deprivation is also associated with more serious health problems like increased risks of certain cancers, heart disease, ulcers, and gastrointestinal issues.
Will we sleep better in a ‘hybrid work environment?”
Even as restrictions begin to ease, staff sleep patterns may not return to normal as more companies consider a ‘hybrid’ work environment. Many businesses already have a flexible working policy, but some will embrace a permanent blended’ working model, with employees continuing to work from home a few days a week.
Although emotions such as anxiety and uncertainly may reduce, which could have a positive impact on sleep, if more employees continue to work from home, some permanent factors may continue to negatively affect sleep.
For remote workers there is the ongoing risk of ‘leavism’, being unable to switch off or catching up on work outside of contractual working hours. This blurring of home-work boundaries can contaminate our sleep environment. For example, the bedroom doubling up as a workspace may become the norm, as more employees participate in ‘bedmin’ (finishing admin tasks while in bed).
Supporting the future of employee sleep
Employers can lessen some of the health and business risks associated with pandemic sleep disruption by making practical changes to employee work schedules. Avoid scheduling too many early calls and virtual meetings and frequently rotating shifts. For those who work night shifts, if they are rotating, do so in a forward rotation (morning, evening, night).
Set expectations regarding working hours and consider the benefits of setting up an official sleep policy for your organization. Provide virtual talks and invite health experts to discuss the impact of poor sleep and how to support those experiencing sleep difficulties. For example, you could run a seminar on how exercise or management of unhelpful thinking can have a positive impact on sleep quality.
Employers might also consider offering staff cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). Whether someone already had chronic insomnia or it’s a recent onset from the pandemic, it’s a treatment that is evidence-based and has proven to be successful for a range of wellbeing difficulties including sleep.
Providing whole of workforce education and self-help resources specifically for sleep (such as an online digital platform), will create an open dialogue around sleep concerns. This facilitates the development of effective support plans and will enable staff and managers to be aware of the benefits of setting healthy boundaries for a better work-life balance.
By Gosia Bowling, Emotional Wellbeing Enhancement and Prevention Lead, Nuffield Health.
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Since the announcement on the 22nd February 2021 that lockdown restrictions will be easing, there has been a 466.67% increase in Google searches for “returning to office”.
Over the last year, the UK has had to adapt to a new way of working, especially with mental health affecting so many people working from home. A study done by Harvey Nash shows that 1 in 3 people reported that their mental health has deteriorated, while 26 percent of UK tech professionals have said that they are experiencing even higher levels of stress than they did before the pandemic.
Researcher at the Institution of Organisational Safety and Health (IOSH) Kirsty Iliffe and leading commercial space provider, Bruntwood Works, have provided advice and some lessons learned from the past lockdowns when it comes to supporting employees mental health.
Kirsty says; “The ongoing stress of the pandemic could lead to both physical and psychological damage and even depression and anxiety,” she goes on to add; As employers, organizations have a duty of care to help their employees and in many countries, they have a legal obligation to do so.”
“It’s important that organizations are aware of the potential mental ill-health implications and ensure they are aware of their roles and responsibilities in supporting their teams.”
1 – Have regular, honest one-to-ones
Lockdown has changed the way we schedule our days. Previously, a manager’s office door was always open. Now, our communication has dwindled as the lockdowns go on, and we get used to working from home.
Effective one-to-ones under the new measures look fundamentally different; they should be open, honest conversations about how we feel, what we’re worried about, and — most importantly — what’s helping us through it.
“Keep in regular contact with remote workers,” says Kirsty. “This will help to avoid feelings of isolation and loneliness. It’s a good way to ensure that workers are well and that they understand any information and instructions presented to them.”
During these conversations, you should let your staff set the agenda. This is the time for managers to listen more than anything else. Establishing a safe space where employees feel heard, can be a lifeline for those who are struggling.
2 – Bring the office perks home with you
Back in the office, business owners spent a lot of time understanding how their employees’ environment affected their productivity, meaning they were creating office perks that would encourage a friendly and productive environment, but when we entered lockdown this wasn’t an option anymore.
Companies should continue to boost staff morale by finding ways to continue those perks outside of the office.
Here are some of the most common office perks — and how you can replicate them remotely:
Gym memberships — If the gyms are closed run a virtual fitness club instead. Share your results using a smartphone app and incentivize the winner with prizes like an afternoon off or an Amazon voucher.
Free food — Used to getting free snacks or meals at the office? Send your staff vouchers to order themselves a tasty lunch a couple of times a month.
Great internet — Most modern offices have fast internet speeds to cope with staff being logged on eight hours a day, but it’s tricky to replicate that at home. Invest in some signal boosters for staff who are having trouble with their home internet connection.
Office games — Missing the foosball table in the office? Luckily, there’s a ton of virtual games you can challenge teammates to instead. You can play Pictionary, Scrabble, and even chess online. Start a leaderboard to see who’s doing best on your team!
3 – Share some good news
When everyone was first put into lockdown, we were obsessively connected to the news cycle, which was mainly negative news being fed to us. Continually being exposed to negative statistics greatly impacted the outlooks and moods of workers. To combat this, companies should share the good news as regularly as possible.
Jo Gallagher, People Business Partner at Bruntwood Works says the company has made practical efforts to share more good news. “Every day, right across the business we’re seeing, hearing, and reading some great colleagues’ stories on our staff conversation platform, Universe. We’ve welcomed a few new Bruntwood Works babies, we’ve embraced new learning opportunities and we’ve seen how our customers are supporting the fight against COVID-19.”
When reading through the press it may not be easy to come across positive news, as a business you can share stories of staff achievements and acts of kindness. Doing so will help lift moods and it may also help to prevent their mental health from deteriorating.
4 – Keep your (virtual) door open
When we were in an office environment, employees often mixed with different teams and senior team members, whether that was whilst making a coffee or having lunch.
Since we are working remotely that just isn’t possible anymore. Setting up measures that bridge the gap between the teams and senior members is important to make sure those relationships are still present.
“Communicate the organizational plan,” advises Kirsty: “be open and honest with all employees. Explain what the organization is doing to help protect its employees, their families and friends, and the organization itself.”
Opening these channels of communication helps your team feel more closely connected with what the business is doing. It gives them a chance to have their say during a time when very little seems to be in their control.
One of the best ways to do this is to have virtual ‘open door’ times for senior staff. During these sessions — perhaps a couple of hours on a Friday afternoon — company directors should keep their calendars free and be prepared to chat with any staff members who want to talk. It could be about the business’s performance, staff concerns, or even new ideas for how the team can move forward.
5 – Don’t give up on social events
Social events were simple before the lockdown. Teams would go out for a few drinks or maybe a fun activity and everyone would have a chance to get to know each other a little better.
As we can not attend any social events, it becomes easy for companies to stop hosting and creating staff socials. Leaders need to look for new options available to them.
Schedule regular social events with your team. Anything that lets you keep in touch without the conversation centering around work will help support your team’s mental health. Here are some virtual socializing ideas your business can try:
Virtual coffee sessions
Zoom evening drinks
Friday afternoon quizzes
A TV and film recommendations group
30-day music challenges
Virtual book clubs.
One step at a time
“People have personal triggers; some are better to carry on working while others simply need some downtime. There is also the social stigma that many feel around talking about their struggles.
Kirsty from IOSH highlights that there’s no ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution to maintaining your team’s mental health because everyone is different.
This being the case, businesses need to be in tune with their staff on an individual level. The only way to do that? Take a genuine interest in each and every member of your team.
“Some decisions can only be made by the individual, such as whether to go off sick or to continue working.”
“Make sure you’re investing in those relationships, regardless of the new obstacles in the way. That needs to be the number one priority of any company right now,” says Jo Gallagher from Bruntwood Works. “If you really care about how your staff is coping, finding the right support measures for them will quickly follow.”
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