These days, the workforce is split. There are those who have remained working remotely, and those who are gradually returning to the office. Both groups of employees experience factors that impact on mental wellbeing. No matter where your employees are based, it is an employer’s responsibility to ensure the wellbeing of their employees. Healthy employees are happy, engaged, motivated and positively impact you customer experience (CX.) Here’s how you can lead the way to employee mental wellbeing.
Remote Working Employees
Working remotely in theory offers a better work-life balance. It is accompanied by pros such as flexibility, and skipping the stress-inducing, time consuming morning traffic. The reality however, is that losing the office space has left many people feeling isolated, alone and burnt out due to over extending work hours into personal time. Feelings of isolation and a lack of work-life balance can lead to high stress levels and disengagement.
Returning To The Office Employees
For those who are gradually moving back to the workplace, uneasy feelings of anticipation are likely to be part of the emotional repertoire. Leaders can help with the transition and reduce additional stress and anxiety.
Steps To Support The Wellbeing Of Your Workforce
1. Encourage work and personal life boundaries
The commute to and from work sets a symbolic beginning and closing of the work day. Working from home means you do not have the physical break of leaving the office at the end of the day to go home. Furthermore, technology means that work is always accessible. Often remote employees work longer hours and feel they need to contribute more and be responsive at any time to show that they are working just as hard at home.
At the office, taking time over lunch breaks and engaging with colleagues (social distancing in place of course!) over non-work related topics is a great way to recharge and connect. When you can’t meet your colleague in the canteen for a social lunch, how many of us eat at our desks, or don’t ever take a coffee break? Working for long periods without taking a break decreases productivity and eventually effects physical health. Mark time out in your calendar, or let your team know that you are unavailable.
Managers must show that they trust their employees and communicate the importance of recharge time. Be conscious of who is still sending emails late into the night and check in with them.
Managers must lead by example and set the same boundaries and expectations in their own lives. It is up to company leads to lead the way to employee mental wellbeing.
2. Set Up regular one-on-ones for goals, progress and feedback surveys
The employer-employee relationship should be one of support where the employee feels able to communicate any challenges. Ensure that these are occurring frequently enough. Such sessions can occur face-to-face at the office or via video conference for remote employees. Ensure to keep cameras on so as to be able to read facial expressions and non-verbal cues.
Leaders should use the time to truly listen to what is being said but also to what lies beneath the spoken word. This will indicate what is impacting mental wellbeing. Discuss possible solutions to lighten the stress load.
Topics should include goals and progress as well as relevant personal matters. Work with your teams to set realistic goals. These are essential to ensure your employees are motivated and engaged. Leaders must ensure that they are aware of workloads which are more difficult to keep track of with a remote workforce. Keep checking in on progress to determine whether any adjustments must be made.
Confidential surveys is a great means of establishing what employees feel is working or not working in the organization. It will help you identify challenges and possible solutions.
3. Establish a safe working environment
Employees will have peace of mind when they see that leaders are actively making the office a safe space. This includes visual reminders about social distancing and sanitization; regular deep cleaning of the office; temporarily close communal areas or allow designated persons in on behalf of others to reduce the number of hands touching counters such as in the kitchen; supply necessary PPE.
Remote employees will also need adjustments to their workspaces at home to ensure ergonomic optimization. This is especially so if working from home is a long-term plan. Encourage your remote employees to have a work space that is separate from their bedroom or eating area. This will contribute to a healthier mindset and facilitates taking breaks and “switching off” during meal time a bed time.
4. Offer Wellbeing Programmes
Employee Assistance Programme (EAP)
This is an independent confidential service that employers can offer employees. Employees can reach out at no cost to them at times when they feel they have no one else to turn to. An independent trained individual will offer a supportive ear. It is a professional process to guide employees through a particular challenge in their life whether it be work-related or personal.
Offer discounts for fitness or wellbeing sessions
Without the daily commute or running around the office we can turn into desk potatoes! Physical exercise is essential for optimal physical and mental health. Leaders can encourage this by offering employees access to free or discounted exercise or wellness programmes or gym memberships. This will make it accessible for all employees and it can include virtual sessions or ones at a physical gym or centre.
5. Facilitate safe socializing
Whether you are working remotely or from the office, the overall reduced socializing and social distancing contributes to greater feelings of isolation. This is for obvious reasons when working alone from home. Similarly, at the office, there is generally less opportunity for casual conversation as we can’t “meet” at the water cooler or the coffee machine. Leaders should arrange safe socializing opportunities. This can be done safely in person with all protocols in place or via a platform such as Zoom or Teams. Consider combining these options to allow remotely-based employees and office-based employees to connect in a more social and less work-related setting.
The link between positive employee experience (EX) and positive customer experience (CX) is evident and strong. Thus when engaging with your customers, consider the fact that they too may be experiencing similar elements that impact their mental well-being. For instance, anxiety over anticipated in-person meetings or workshops. These have a different dynamic now, and are also different to virtual meetings. There are additional elements to factor in.
When conducting live in-person workshops, ensure that the environment has all the safety measures in place to ensure your customers feel secure about their health and safety. A good idea is to discuss or inform people of these in advance. Proper planning is the best policy for a smoothly run meeting or workshops. These in-person meetings may be the first for many after months of isolation and may be infrequent. In this regard, always allow for non-work related communication to establish trust, support, and build a relationship.
By implementing the tips above, managers can lead the way to employee mental wellbeing. With all the regulations in place and new ways of working and connecting, it is essential to remember that we are social beings. Always bring your human side along.
Author: Yael Benjamin from Interact RDT