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In the wake of Mental Health Awareness week, we discuss the importance of a holistic approach to wellbeing that encompasses the key challenges faced by employees to their mental, physical and financial health.

At Paydata we have been hosting our bi-annual HR networking groups, which include dedicated HR Professionals who come together to discuss remuneration and reward challenges they face in their specific industry. There has been a lot of talk in our HR Groups about how to keep in touch and overcome risks to employee mental health posed by being withdrawn from the workplace.

There has been consensus on the top five tips for managing wellbeing and engaging employees across sectors, which include the following:

1. Be accommodating

We are keen to stress that the new normal is not working from home in its truest sense when schools and nurseries are currently closed. Two fifths of working parents are balancing homeschooling with a full time job, on average spending three hours a day helping their children and many making up lost work hours in the evenings after their children have gone to bed.

Employers are understandably keen to ease the stress reported by on average 41 per cent of employees during this period. Line managers should accommodate for kids and home life responsibilities being blurred and discuss what they believe can be done to carry on meeting the needs of their job role, whilst taking care of their child/children.

2. Embrace trial and error

It is important to acknowledge that remote working is something that many companies did not even get the chance to trial before lockdown was mandated. Many companies who had trialed widespread working from home before the pandemic were keen to stress that one of the biggest lessons they had learnt was that you won’t necessarily get it right first time.

Many employees have reported how the lines between work and home life are easily blurred, with the risk that employees end up ‘online’ all the time. Many have replaced their commute with logging on earlier and organisations need to address employees potentially worker harder and longer hours to avoid burnout. This includes HR professionals with a heavy workload, as there is more to do than ever right now in HR. There has been a lot of work over the last 10 years that has examined work-life balance and set in place a re-education in remote working. Above all, agreeing clear expectations and providing guidelines to help them operate (e.g. muting zoom meetings, flexible hours) will reassure employees about what is expected and reach a new normal that works across your organisation.

3. Tailor support to each individual and what they need to thrive in lockdown

An organisation’s response to coronavirus will affect each employee differently. Remote working will also have been imposed on extroverts, alongside introverts, who may embrace this new way of working. Universally, 47 per cent of respondents to our UK Reward Management Survey anticipate that productivity will decrease as employees juggle extra pressures the lockdown has introduced.

Offering a support network and resources is important as employers consider the mental, physical and financial wellbeing of individuals. Many are still offering training to furloughed staff to give them the opportunity for self-development during this period, whilst some are concerned about reintroducing staff to work where their furloughed status may feel they have been deemed ‘non-essential’ and rebuilding engagement will be a key consideration.

4. Ensure each employee has access to support

The physical health and safety of workers working from home has needed to be ensured by employers in a very short timeframe. Where others are already discussing pay cuts and shortened working hours with staff as the pressure on pay budgets and operating costs starts to build, employers are trying to look at this from the employee’s point of view and the support they need financially – granting access to loan services and financial advice.

Wider employee wellbeing should be considered in the long-term. Whilst greater pressure builds on employees working from home and potentially vulnerable to loneliness in isolation, Care providers have told us that their people are very much focused on doing the best job they can at the moment. However, they expect the mental impact of COVID-19 to emerge in the coming months, or even later in the year. And with 55 per cent out of 1,043 respondents surveyed in the Construction sector having said that the pandemic will damage the industry’s ability to function and survive, a rounded approach to wellbeing should be considered now to ease the impact in both the short and long-term.

5. Keep everyone informed

Don’t underestimate the importance around the internal communications piece. Not only important in terms of productivity and maintaining culture, communication has never been more vital to maintain employee engagement and to ensure they feel that their employer is regularly checking in and considering the impact on them as an individual. Your employees are your most important stakeholders and operate as ambassadors. They need to be informed and understand the latest response from their employer to effectively communicate externally with customers. Demystifying the situation and providing reassurance provides hope for the future, maintaining employee engagement.

Studies have shown that leaders have a particularly special role in reducing employee anxiety. Crisis communications shaped by strong leaders with regular updates provide reassurance at difficult, unprecedented times. CEOs involved in communications via vlogs or letters to all employees are very successful in buoying employee morale. Clear communications from the very top shows a commitment to transparency. Rather than waiting until you know all of the answers, provide timely information to employees about the organisation’s approach.

Get in touch

The longer the current situation goes on, the greater pressure this places on employee engagement. If you’d like to discuss any aspect of how best to drive employee engagement and workforce planning during this period, get in touch today.

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