The world is facing a wellbeing crisis. Beyond the devastating physical effects of the virus, the mental toll of Covid-19 is a significant one. 10% of the UK population have recently experienced suicidal thoughts, 15% have felt hopeless, and 45% are feeling anxious and worried.
It’s time for leaders to look at their organisations, and understand what they can do to support their people – and that comes from equipping and enabling your line managers.
Wellbeing and work are already closely linked. Research from 2015 found that every two minutes, someone becomes unwell as a result of work stress. That not only affects your people, but it damages your organisation too – with roughly £13 billion lost annually due to illness. With work causing a mental health pandemic of its own, things are only getting worse.
Now more than ever, employee health and wellbeing needs to be your primary concern. From those who’ve been made redundant or faced furlough, to those risking their safety as keyworkers, service, or hospitality staff – the pandemic and lockdowns have worsened employee wellbeing considerably.
Leaders have a responsibility to address this effectively, providing the mental health support employees need – and they need to empower line managers to do the same.
Whether you’re a C-suite leader, director, or part of the senior team, learning to delegate is key – even for sensitive matters, like creating an employee health and wellbeing policy. That’s because leading is about becoming “more essential and less involved”.
When delegating tasks, consider this: just because it’s important, it doesn’t mean you have to do it. Trusting your line managers will give them the motivation, commitment, and ownership they need to have positive outcomes. And research suggests that too – with a study showing companies run by execs who delegate are more successful, with higher growth and revenue.
When it comes to employee wellbeing, not only is it too important for business leaders not to delegate – it’s also something your managers are going to be better at influencing. The research is fairly conclusive on this point:
Tackling engagement or wellbeing isn’t an option – as highly engaged employees burn out, if their wellbeing isn’t taken care of. They’re highly related, which poses a challenge, but as studies show managers have a major impact on both, it gives you a clear area to focus. So how can you support your line managers?
Your managers are people too. And like everyone else, they may be struggling with their mental health or difficult personal circumstances. Don’t forget to give them the space to cope – whether that’s through time off, or flexible working hours. If they’re unwell, they won’t be able to look after wellbeing in their own team.
Managing a team is a skill – and like any other skill, a degree of training is required. When it concerns a highly sensitive area like mental health, where getting it wrong has serious ramifications, it’s even more important that managers are equipped with best practice guidance.
If your management team understands the influence they have over your employees’ wellbeing, they’ll be more motivated to own this area. So tell them! Make sure they’re aware of the types of personal challenges people may be facing too, whether pandemic-related or not, so they can anticipate ways to support their team.
Put a wellbeing plan in place that the whole company has to follow, and communicate it well – it’ll back up the actions they take, and make sure everyone’s on the same page. Maybe that’s outlawing out-of-hours emails, setting a maximum of video calls per day.
It could even be setting a company-wide ‘break time’, dedicated to getting some fresh air – as 59% of adults cope by walking, and 50% by visiting green spaces. If everyone’s calendars are blocked out for this purpose, even just for twenty minutes, they’ll be no guilt about taking a break during a busy day.
Remote working has its challenges, especially when it comes to having an open and honest conversation. Equipping managers with the right tools – like video or chatting software – can help. And when it really comes down to pinning down what’s affecting wellbeing, our confidential surveys and advanced language analysis can help too.
If your managers are working hard to safeguard employee wellbeing, make sure they see the impact they’re having. Encourage them to keep track of how their initiatives are changing how people feel, and talk openly about them too. Because they should be celebrated for making your organisation more resilient.