Burgos, February 16, 2022.- The mental health of workers has always been an asset to manage. Below I highlight the recommendations, advice and tactics that I have read in different expert publications in business and economic management. Their conclusions must be put in the context of each company, but they can be a reference for the present and the future.
Forbes: “No two situations are the same right now and that working with employees one-to-one”
Forbes magazine claims that employers who are invested in their people and culture will have introduced new initiatives, practices, and ways of working to support their employees during this disruptive time. Now as discussions about returning to offices, attending in-person events, and getting back on the road emerge – and with May being Mental Health Awareness Month – it’s important leaders update their policies to ensure they account for the many changes associated with returning to this new normal.
We secured new headquarters in New York during the pandemic. Pre COVID, we were expanding quickly and recognized the need to scale up. We officially moved in last month, and have seen a steady flow of employees come and work from the office a few days a week over the last few weeks. Many have missed the routine of coming to an office, some craved social interaction, and a number of our project teams find it more productive to brainstorm and create in a face-to-face environment.
Others haven’t come back in at all yet, and that’s okay. Our policy has not been to make the return to a physical office the requirement at the moment. We understand that our people thrive in different environments and have different responsibilities, and this has never been truer during (and as we transition out of) the pandemic.
Many of our employees relocated away from our office bases as the pandemic became a reality, so we’re working with them to provide guidance and timelines to return to these cities, as well as determine whether shifting to remote working permanently may be the best option for them. We’ve also introduced a number of culture shifts, including encouraging employees to avoid scheduling internal meetings between 12 pm on Fridays and 12 pm on Mondays, so that everyone gets a break. ‘Respect the weekend’ is a practice we ask them to preach too – unless it’s time-sensitive, our people avoid sending emails to colleagues during this time.
It’s important to understand that no two situations are the same right now and that working with employees one-to-one to understand them is the key to a productive and happy workforce.
Doing away with the traditional top-down leadership style will work wonders not just in 2021, but beyond. A feedback culture model encourages employees, irrespective of their seniority level, to share their thoughts and concerns with their managers on a regular basis (it’s standard operating procedure for our managers to conduct weekly or bi-weekly one-to-one meetings with their direct reports), rather than wait until their annual reviews. This type of continuous feedback model ensures issues are addressed ongoing, and that they do not grow into something bigger or exacerbate underlying mental health or other matters.
It’s important leaders walk the talk here too, by practicing it with their own direct reports, reminding them to be accessible to their teams and encouraging them to share their thoughts and feedback with them on a regular basis, and advocating for it during company-wide and other meetings.
We’re most fulfilled when we’re doing work that we know is making a difference. Ensuring you assign your people to projects and clients where they do their best work is great, but it’s important to look beyond this.
Get them involved in internal initiatives that boost morale, such as the company’s sustainability policy or Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion committee, and align your organization with charities that are both seeking volunteers to support on the ground, and the expertise of your people.
We partner with non-profits not only based on the great work they do but on our ability to make a real difference through the provision of event production and broader marketing services. We know we can deliver the most value to charities in these areas, and it also enables our people to apply their skills to fulfilling projects where they can give back.
Mental health awareness and advocacy has improved over the last decade, but the pandemic has brought with it several new sensitivities and factors for leaders to consider. So when addressing these in the workplace right now, a personalized, compassionate approach is essential as we transition out of the pandemic.
People Management: “Remember, people are your most valuable asset so look after them, no matter what”
People Management magazine highlights that financial worries are one of the biggest causes of poor mental health and any employee experiencing difficulties financially is likely to struggle because of this. Look out for signs such as lateness, absence, withdrawal and/or a change in their concentration and/or performance: these are often signs of anxiety and depression caused by financial worry, often due to a lack of sleep. Without sleep, we cannot perform properly, and continued stress and anxiety impacts significantly on our ability to manage normal daily tasks.
If there is no EAP offering within your business, then HR can encourage employers to consider other ways in which employees can be supported including people managers operating an open-door approach, allowing them a safe space to offload. For me, this should be the case anyway, encouraging open and honest communication between manager and team throughout the whole working year.
There are organisations to signpost employees to if they need help with their finances, and it’s a good idea to have this information to help colleagues seek expert support. Another option is to provide seminars which are finance focused and provided by financial advice professionals. Seminars may not cost the business anything and the benefit they offer to employees by providing professional independent advice is often invaluable and welcomed.
While a pay rise might be out of the question, taking the time to think about how you can support people will show employees how much they are valued. The physical and mental health of employees impacts upon any business. As HR professionals we know there is a direct link between the health of our employees and healthy business performance.
Failing to recognise the importance of employee mental health and wellbeing is likely to impact negatively upon any business. Remember, people are your most valuable asset so look after them, no matter what.
Finally, I invite you to see this intervention of a medical professional, Dr.Marcos Iglesias, Chief Medical Director at Travelers, discursses ways to support the mental health of employees returning to post-Covid19 workplace: