2020: where stress took on a new meaning, when it comes to working lives. For the luckiest, it meant coping with the isolation - but relative security - of full-time remote working. Then there were the furloughed masses, waves of redundancies, and rising unemployment rates.
When it comes to employee wellbeing, you need to step it up - however your people have been affected.
Hard times ahead: rising unemployment and the Job Support Scheme
From losing up to 20% of their wages, working people across the UK now face a 33% drop if hit by local lockdowns, as the new Job Support Scheme rolls in. That’s not just a loss of earnings to deal with, but the promise of long-term uncertainty.
Couple that with an estimate of 1.52 million people unemployed, a 4.5% unemployment rate, and that lack of security is all around - if it hasn’t touched your teams directly, it could have affected their family members.
Workplace wellbeing: your role as an employer
Your people are your #1 advantage - so you need to look after them. But there’s a lot that goes into creating a culture of wellbeing in the workplace. From championing fair and inclusive sickness absence policies, to providing access to external support, it all comes down to understanding the needs of your people.
To understand, you need to listen. The decisions you make to promote health and wellbeing need to be data-driven - and choosing the right tool for wide-scale, unbiased listening is essential for that. With so many different reasons to feel under pressure right now, knowing where to focus and what steps to take is key.
How to promote mental health and wellbeing in the workplace
It’s a hard time for everyone, make no mistake. But the nature of the challenges your employees are facing are something you need to try and understand - however different they may be:
Employees you had to put on furlough
While furlough may seem like a lucky escape from redundancy, studies show that many employees fear it’s just a way of delaying the inevitable. And beyond that fear of losing their jobs entirely, your people’s mental health may be under strain due to dealing with reduced finances and a general lack of purpose. Here’s how you can help:
- Communication: research shows furloughed employees often feel abandoned, due to managers avoiding contact - usually due to a misunderstanding of the legality of staying in touch. Avoid this by maintaining a steady, consistent flow of communication - so they still feel like a valued member of the team.
- Honesty: knowing is always better than not knowing. Be as open as possible about the future of your employee’s role, the realities of their financial reimbursement, and the timeframes of them being out of work. It’s just the right thing to do, and they’ll respect your candidness.
- Development: not having a schedule, or structure, can do a number on anyone’s mental health. Consider suggesting, or even funding, a number of learning and development opportunities - giving them a renewed sense of purpose, and strengthening their skills for when they eventually return?
- Sharing the load: a Cambridge University study strongly advocates reducing
the hours of more staff members by a smaller amount, rather than fully furloughing one or two people - claiming it could help ward off a nationwide mental health crisis. Think about whether that’s practical for your organisation.
Employees who didn’t get put on furlough
The hardest people to emphasise with are those that (in your opinion) don’t have grounds to complain. And while those who weren’t faced with furlough might seem to fall into that group, try and be understanding of the pressures they’ve had to face.
With a segment of your workforce gone, they’re liable to feel overstretched and overwhelmed - taking on bigger workloads, feeling as if they can’t take time off, and under pressure to perform. The risk of burnout is all too real, so showing compassion and understanding - and crucially listening - can help you keep your remaining teams productive.
Employees working remotely full time
If you’ve been forced to go ‘remote first’, then your people will probably still be adjusting to working from home. Although the reprieve from commuting would have been welcome, they could be experiencing struggles you wouldn’t expect - from dealing with noisy houseshares to childcare issues. Read our advice about promoting a work-life balance, maintaining your culture, avoiding Zoom fatigue, and onboarding remotely.
Employees who survived redundancies
In the wake of redundancies, the strongest emotional response your remaining team might be feeling isn’t relief - it’s guilt. 74% reported being less productive after a round of lay-offs, and that could be due to anything from insecurity about their own value to the general low morale that can overcome a company faced with this reality.
What can you do? Not expecting your ‘safe’ employees to be grateful is a start - and involving them in your next steps to ensure a more resilient organisation going forward is a powerful way to move forward.
Employees with unemployed or furloughed family members
If your organisation has been one of the few that thrived during lockdown, then do you really need to look at wellbeing? Well, yes.
We call them “your people” because that’s what they are - people. Not employees, members of staff, workers that only exist within business hours. That means they’ll have their own personal struggles as a result of the pandemic. With an estimated 12 million people struggling to pay their bills, the chances of your people’s partners or dependant family members having work struggles are fairly high.
To understand the challenges they’re facing, and what support you can often, you need to start an honest conversation. We can help you with that.
How Qlearsite helps you listen to your people
You can’t spend all day, everyday having 121s with all your employees. And even if you did, would they feel comfortable enough to really tell you what they think?
By sending them a short survey, built from only the most effective questions, and analysing their written responses, they’ll have a confidential or anonymous platform for speaking up. Our technology lets you see the main topics of concern, and understand what data-driven actions to take next.
It’s about better listening - encouraging honest conversations between you, and your people. And that can help you protect their wellbeing.
Ready to build a fitter organisation that can survive a crisis?
See how the Organisational Fitness Scan can help you.