Staff Wellbeing in Challenging Times

Oct 1, 2021

How are you feeling?

Despite the countless emails hoping they find the recipient well, these are challenging times.  Dealing with the ramifications of the Covid pandemic since March 2020 has brought new and unexpected challenges.

Whether your staff have been key workers or furloughed; if you are trying to get “back to normal”, or planning for the next lockdown; the legacy of the last year and the ongoing challenges are apparent.

This is not intended to sound unduly negative – however it is important that we recognise the reality of the situation so that we can plan how to deal with it effectively.

Given that we can’t change much of the situation we find ourselves in, what can we do to help our employees?

Help staff establish – or re-establish – boundaries.

Working from home has led to even more blurring of work/home time and whilst this works for some, employees also need to be given explicit permission to “switch off” when they are not at work and not feel they need to be constantly checking emails.  Encourage employees to take time to do whatever helps their own mental wellbeing.

Clarify roles and responsibilities

In many organisations staff have had to be flexible about working outside their usual role.  Now is a good time to re-establish what is expected of everyone within the team.

Recognise where things have to change. 

Some companies are left in a position where they have fewer staff and/or tighter financial pressures.  Be as open as possible with staff about this situation, and recognise that, in the short term at least, some aspects of the work may have to take a back seat.  Being explicit about priorities and what they may have to say no to can help everyone work more effectively.

Communicate frequently

Even if you feel you don’t have much to say, it is still worth keeping up regular communication.  Where there appear to be gaps, people will tend to speculate.  Make sure your employees are hearing the correct message, the one you want them to hear.

Ensure good work practices are maintained

Where organisations have been under pressure or acting in “crisis” mode, it is important  time to reinstate key management processes, even if they may need to look a little different. E.g. ensure individuals are having 1:1s with their managers, appraisals are taking place, policies are updated.

Recognise individual responses may vary

There is no one size fits all.  Be particularly aware of different challenges employees may face.  For example, working from home may be helpful or desirable for some, but it largely depends on your home and who you share it with.  The experience will be very different if you have a home office with views over beautiful countryside, or if you are in a small flat-share with noisy neighbours and can’t afford to put the heating on.  Flexible working may be a big help for some juggling children having to self-isolate, but others may be craving getting back into a familiar routine.  Talking to employees and asking about their specific circumstances means that where the business allows you can help in the best way possible.

Consider additional interventions where necessary

Now is a perfect time to look at what wellbeing initiatives you have in place.    There are a range of other options to consider: we have delivered Wellness webinars to clients about coping with stress, as well as providing coaching for individuals.  Larger organisations might be able to fund a certain number of sessions as part of an employee assistance programme. Raising mental health awareness, signposting to helpful organisations, and encourage individuals to ask for help if they need it can be a great first step in looking after your employees.