A considerable task that business owners face during the outbreak is keeping teams motivated and productive in the face of uncertainty. According to the people, management and CIPD poll, around 63 per cent of employers say anxiety is the biggest challenge facing their organisation right now, followed by the inability for their teams to work remotely.
With this in mind, John Williams, Head of Marketing at Commercial Property Specialists Instant Offices explains why it’s an ideal time for businesses to place a sharper focus on talking about employee mental health, whether teams are working onsite or remotely.
A YouGov survey has highlighted how the outbreak has impacted the overall mood in the UK, with 48 per cent of Brits feeling stressed and 42 per cent feel frustrated. One in three Britons feels unprepared, with 62 per cent of adults saying they feel anxious or worried. This number is much higher in the younger age group, with 80 per cent of under 25s saying existing mental health issues have gotten worse since the outbreak began.
With some team members working remotely and others off ill, quarantined or self-isolating, it is more important than ever for businesses to retain talent, reduce presenteeism and maintain morale. So, what can businesses do to pay attention to their employee’s mental health?
Break the culture of silence: There is still a stigma around mental illness that makes employees more likely to suffer in silence than share information with their managers or bosses. Around 82 per cent of employees with a diagnosed mental health condition do not confide in management, and 40 per cent of employees have given a false reason when taking time off for mental health.
Now is an ideal time for leaders within businesses to talk more openly about mental health and create a culture that encourages conversations around these issues. Taking a mental health day or asking for support should never impact an employee's reputation or how they are perceived.
Keep socialising with your teams: Remote working has its perks, but a lot of people are feeling isolated right now. Office banter is missed most about work since lockdown, with a recent study by Vodafone shows 41 per cent say they miss the daily jokes.
Lee Chambers, Environmental Psychologist & Wellbeing Trainer said, "in these turbulent times, social connection is vital to our wellbeing. Without the ability to go out and socialise in the way we usually would, we have to be more creative and have more intention in our connection with others during this lockdown scenario. In some ways, the enforcement of rules around movement has caused us to slow down. This actually gives us the chance to connect on a deeper level."
Lead by example: With many employees working remotely, managers need to be more conscious of the challenges different households are facing. Encouraging flexibility, self-care and regular check-ins is key to reducing presenteeism and stress, and ensuring employees facing any issues can be identified and supported. Encourage transparent conversations and put action plans in place for team members who need help.
Introduce team activity and training sessions: With employees using tools like Zoom to connect with the office remotely, now is a great time for businesses to encourage morning catch-ups, remote Friday drinks, yoga sessions or even company training sessions. Encourage team members to take a class they've always wanted to try or to attend industry-related Webinars. This is a great way to support employees looking to upskill themselves and stay busy.
More work needs to be done to ensure businesses take care of their most valuable assets – their employees. Encourage employees to self-advocate and seek early intervention before their mental health requires more stringent measures, like having to take stress leave or resign.