I want to talk to my employees about their wellbeing but I don’t know where to start, what should I read first?
There are lots of charities and bodies which provide employers with information and resources designed to help you support your employees. Mind, the Mental Health Foundation and the CIPD are all good places to start finding out what you can do to support and promote staff health and wellbeing at work. Mind and CIPD have co-produced a guide for businesses, which includes checklists and templates, to supporting mental health at work for anyone involved in managing people.
I’m worried about the mental health of some of my employees but I don’t know how to talk to them about it
Supporting colleagues who are struggling with their mental health can sometimes seem daunting – people often worry about saying the wrong thing. Don’t assume that your employees will come to you to talk about their health – if this isn’t something you have previously addressed at work, you may find that some are struggling in silence. Mind, the Mental Health Foundation and the CIPD all provide guidance on how to begin conversations with employees about their mental health and wellbeing.
You might also want to undertake training, either yourself, or making it available for people in your team. Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) is the largest provider of mental health first aid training in the UK and Europe and is accredited by the Royal Society for Public Health. They provide online and on-site learning options, ranging from basic mental health awareness sessions to a full mental health first aider qualification.
Whatever you do, don’t say nothing. According to the Mental Health Foundation, addressing wellbeing at work increases productivity by as much as 12 per cent. A Deloitte study published in 2020 found that for every £1 spent on mental health interventions by employers, they get back £5 in reduced absence, presenteeism and staff turnover, so not only will you helping your employees but your business as well.
I already have procedures in place but our ways of working have changed significantly, what extra support can I provide?
If your employees have found their jobs have changed significantly, are going to be working from home for the foreseeable future as a result of coronavirus, or if you have a blend of staff in the office or on site and employees who are working remotely, this is going to throw up challenges when it comes to people management, maintaining motivation and performance.
Feedback and regular assessments of how your team’s experience is turning out will be vital. Think about whether you need to introduce or change personal management systems or introduce more frequent check in sessions with staff. Consulting employees about their ambitions and expectations about their job and what they’re willing to be flexible about is a vital step as you think about the long-term future of your business.
What’s my legal obligation when it comes to the wellbeing of staff?
According to the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), in Great Britain, the Equality Act 2010 includes many mental illnesses which can legally be classed as a disability. Employees may qualify for protection under the Act if there is a substantial and long-term effect on their ability to carry out normal day-to-day tasks.
Mental impairments do not need to be clinically well-recognised in order to qualify as a disability. If an employee has a disability, their employer has a responsibility to make reasonable adjustments to accommodate their needs. Even if someone’s mental health condition has not been classed as a disability within the definition of the law, it is still good practice to make appropriate adjustments to their work or working pattern to support them.
How can I meet new demands for physical, emotional and mental health and safety?
Recent research shows that when employees feel valued and supported at work, they have higher levels of overall wellbeing and perform their roles much better. To instil a culture which ensures physical and emotional support make sure that your senior leadership are demonstrating that the business is fully committed to staff wellbeing. Engage staff through regular communication, seek their feedback on issues like work/life balance and development opportunities.
It is also worth looking closely at the support networks you have in place to help staff who may have concerns and make wellbeing a key part of your staff training. Mind have developed a helpful guide on how to promote wellbeing at work.
How do we motivate and engage staff in a remote workforce?
Engaging your workforce whilst working remotely is key not only to maintaining performance levels and successful business operations, but also to ensuring your staff are happy, can work effectively and are not negatively impacted by working away from the office.
One of the crucial aspects missing from being in the office is the sense of community and belonging, with Zoom calls and instant messaging not fully covering the ad hoc interactions and ‘kitchen conversations’ which are a daily part of office life. However, whilst filling employee’s diaries with calls can be counterproductive, organising calls and informal chats between employees who may not usually work together or speak outside of a work setting can increase a sense of camaraderie and community between employees.
Smarp have published a great guide covering 20 tips for remote working, with the ITA Group also offering some sage advice for employers to best engage staff whilst working remotely.
How do we maintain our company culture with people working remotely?
Whilst company culture is always difficult to define and even harder to create, especially remotely, the current remote working situation can offer employers a great chance to press reset and reassess their company values and culture. Encouraging employees to continuously offer suggestions on working practices, initiatives and ideas can be easily done through remote working, with employees feeling more empowered to email suggestions rather than put their hands up in company meetings.
Reminding employees of, or even creating, company values during this time can reinforce best practices and help to foster a positive working culture between employees even at a distance
Setting up less-formal arrangements, such as lunch meetings or even virtual ‘drinks’ to replace the organic interactions and ad hoc events which stem from office work can help employees talk to others outside their current teams. When scheduling these, encourage a free, non-hierarchical format to ensure more junior employees feel encouraged to attend.
Professional services firm Accenture has a useful guide on how best to foster equality and inclusivity across companies at all times, with Inside 6Q offering some great practical recommendations on creating and developing culture whilst working remotely.