Chartered clinical psychologist Dr Stephanie Fitzgerald, a health and wellbeing partner from Hey Me, offers her advice on why it’s more important than ever that we get health and wellbeing at work right.
Looking after health and wellbeing of employees is not a new thing. If we think back to the industrial revolution, and iconic businessmen like Joseph Rowntree, his company was founded upon clean living, and provided all kinds of facilities to keep staff healthy so that they could work more efficiently.
Nowadays, basic health is usually taken care of, but health in terms of psychological safety is a fairly new concept and something that’s extremely important to a lot of industries. Take the rail industry, where some staff are at risk of being exposed to workplace violence and traumatic incidents. Having provisions in place to support mental health is paramount.
In this Covid-19 era, we have seen a flip back to basic health, but also with an increase in the need to look after people’s wellbeing more than ever. There is a threat of becoming ill, but also the threat of job uncertainty and a general feeling of nervousness around working.
The pandemic has created seismic shifts in the way businesses are running, and the pace of change is rapid. So, it’s important that employees’ health and wellbeing is prioritised. Helping employees deal with the many demands on their time and selves will be integral to keeping businesses operating successfully in the coming months.
There is an expectation on employers to understand the ins and outs of wellbeing. The reality is, it’s a tricky area that’s still in its infancy. So, how do we get it right?
Be open and honest about mental health
Encourage open and honest conversations around mental health to help create a feeling of psychological safety. Often, employees are scared to admit that they are struggling, in fear of being discriminated against. Send clear messages that mental health is viewed just as importantly as physical health and make it a regular talking point in your internal communications.
Invest in mental first aid training
Training staff members to become mental first aiders can be a great way of supporting mental health in the workplace. Mental first aiders are trained to spot the early warning signs and act as a listening ear to those at risk. In addition to assisting those in need, this will signal to employees that the business cares about mental health and that support is always available.
Train line managers
Line managers need to be trained appropriately. Empathy and emotional intelligence isn’t a skill that everyone has, so it’s important to teach managers how to have sensitive conversations, and how to identify when people need extra support.
Encourage managers to hold regular 121s and meetings, so that they are providing opportunities for employees to voice concerns, report incidents and tell them how they’re doing.
Be flexible with working arrangements
Getting work done when you’re struggling mentally can be hard. Adjusting working arrangements can make it easier for an employee to manage their mental health difficulties. This might involve accommodating remote working, a change in start or finishing times, managing workload to alleviate stress, or making sure an employee is taking regular breaks.
Having these support mechanisms in place can benefit the business too by preventing staff from burnout and easing absent staff back into work sooner. Checking on employees after having time off is equally important, and businesses should do everything they can to support them on their road to recovery.
Refresh your wellbeing programme
Promoting good health and wellbeing is not just about focusing on mental illness, but it is about helping employees to make good decisions both inside and outside of work. A well-considered wellbeing programme can make for happier and healthier employees who are better equipped to deliver high quality work. Examples of benefits that can benefit home and work-life include:
- A subsidised online gym membership to encourage exercise
- Free counselling sessions to support those in need of somebody to talk to
- Money management advice to help anyone struggling with debt
By having the right wellbeing practices in place, you can improve retention, increase happiness, boost productivity and most importantly, create a sense of safety at work.
With all this in mind, Hey Me have created toolkits which introduce some basic processes and guides to help organisations develop health and wellbeing policies. Find out about our toolkits now.