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17th Jun, 2020

Lee Gudgeon
Lee Gudgeon
Job Title
Managing Director, Reed Talent Solutions

As the government eases lockdown, more businesses are conducting risk assessments and implementing additional safety measures to prepare for reopening. However, organisations must consider their employees’ mental wellbeing - which is as vital as physical health. Understanding how to effectively look after the mental health of your workforce should be a top priority before you reopen.

Impact of the lockdown

Working from home for an extended period, especially for those employees in isolation, will have had some negative impacts on their mental health. Now, it might also be difficult for your workforce to transition back into the workplace. Those who adapted well to working remotely might be reluctant to leave their ‘new normal’.

While the coronavirus crisis continues, there will be employees feeling anxiety over returning. Everyone is facing major change, so it’s important to look after everyone’s wellbeing – whether they seem unwell or not. Prevention is better than a cure.

Benefits of a healthy workplace and good leadership

Your workforce will look to their senior leadership for any developments, especially around job security. You need to have a clear and open communication style for them to understand any changes you will make. The Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) has an interactive self-assessment tool on leadership style to help you understand what you need to know to be an effective and supportive leader.

Leaders within a workplace have a lot of influence over how each person may feel about their work, which can greatly impact the way they perform.

A government-backed review by Lord Dennis Stevenson and Mind CEO Paul Farmer, ‘Thriving at work’, reported that “poor mental health costs businesses between £33 billion and £42 billion a year through reduced productivity, high turnover and sickness absence.”

Mental health charity Mind says that “more than one in five (21 per cent) agreed that they had called in sick to avoid work, when asked how workplace stress has affected them.”

Encouraging your teams to speak to their managers will create a transparent environment where people aren’t bottling up their negative emotions to the point where they feel unwell and need time off.

How to create a healthy and happy working environment

If you don’t already, now is the time to really listen to your workforce so you know what their concerns are, and you can work to alleviate them and adapt your processes. Investing in your employees’ wellbeing is critical to success, but it doesn’t have to cost anything. Changing your practices might be all you need to do.

Businesses should already have systems in place to support workers’ mental health, but you should also be reviewing these regularly and making changes reflexively, as we’re still in uncertain times.

A transparent environment usually encourages greater productivity and better motivation. People who feel they can be open about their feelings, and that their wellbeing matters to those they work for, have a greater sense of job satisfaction. You are more likely to attract and retain staff if you can provide this type of workplace.

According to What Works Wellbeing, the drivers of wellbeing in the workplace are:

Health and relationships – Both mental and physical health are important to your workforce - and these are always connected. If you are rested, have done some exercise, eating and drinking well, you will feel more resilient and far less stressed. Having different forms of support from a manager, organisation, and colleagues are key to a happy working life for your employees. These relationships help them grow as a person and as a professional.

Security and environment – Those who are worried that they’re unsafe in their environment, in any way, won’t be able to work to the best of their ability. A good workplace culture, with fairness and good values, will help your workers feel grateful to work for you, which motivates them to work harder and feel passionate about what they do.

Purpose – Another factor that helps your staff enjoy their work is providing clear goals to work to, a balanced workload they can complete, and giving them work that allows them to utilise their skills. This helps provide a sense of achievement.

Providing the right mental and physical health support to your employees will only be a benefit to you and the company in the long run.

Speak to us today for more information.

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