Looking after employee wellbeing during lockdown

Steffi Maranan

With the UK currently under its third lockdown, with no definitive end in sight, a significant strain has been put on the wellbeing of individuals. The social distancing, self isolation and uncertainty most have experienced has had a serious effect on the mental health and overall wellbeing of people.

The mental health charity Mind have found that more than half of adults (60%) and over two thirds of young people (68%) said their mental health got worse during lockdown. It’s important to take care of yourself and others during this time, especially when the majority of us are carrying on as ‘normal’ with our day-to-day jobs. As an organisation, it’s especially important to ensure you are doing what you can to support the wellbeing of all employees.

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How you can support your employee’s wellbeing during lockdown

1.Don’t try to pour from an empty cup

Lockdown has had an impact on everyone, so when offering support or guidance to colleagues be sure to prioritise your own health and wellbeing. It’s difficult to offer help to others when your own cup is empty. Like we’re told on an airplane – put your mask on first before you help others. Consider the support measures around you, and don’t be afraid to use them.

2. Train managers on the potential implications of covid on employee wellbeing

Make sure managers are regularly checking in on their people and providing support for their wellbeing.  Ensuring managers know how to respond to and deal with wellbeing implications on employees related to Covid-19 will help to create a safe space for employees who are affected, as well as making employees feel supported.

3. Communicate regularly on wellbeing support

Make sure employees are regularly reminded that there is support for their wellbeing and mental health within your organisation if they ever need it – e.g. nudge employees on any initiatives or related activities to encourage people to participate. If your organisation doesn’t have any related initiatives, it may be a good idea to set up a committee around wellbeing initiatives and action planning.

4. Maintain a positive work/life balance

A significant numberof us are working from home, so the line between work and home can easily be blurred – it’s easier to work longer hours with fewer breaks as the space used for relaxation and work are now the areas. Where possible encourage people to take proper breaks and totally switch off from work – even by suggesting to go outside for a walk or jog.

5. Keep connection alive and ongoing

Working from home can be isolating especially when living alone. Connecting with others promotes good mental health – encouraging employees to take the time to converse and connect with other colleagues informally and regularly is a good way to keep connection alive and ongoing.

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6. Review workloads

Under the current circumstances there are a number of reasons why employees may not be as productive as they usually are under normal circumstances. It’s important to be aware of this and to also be sensitive to changing situations (for example school closures). There should be room for adjustments or change in expectations to work around the needs of employees that need it.

7. Relax rules and be flexible

Parents and carers in particular are more likely to find it difficult to juggle work commitments with personal/ home commitments, so it’s important that their needs can be accommodated for. Allowing employees to do their work outside of regular working hours, and scheduling meetings at a time suitable for them could release the pressure for employees to always be available during the day. However it’s also important that work is stopped at a reasonable hour and employees take time off during the weekends.

8. Promote learning

Learning can help to boost wellbeing and make employees feel accomplished – as well as helping with their development it will also give employees something out of the daily routine of work to focus on.

9. Encourage employees to eat well and exercise

Physical health is also important when it comes to the impact on wellbeing, so encouraging employees to eat well and exercise regularly can have a positive impact on their overall wellbeing. In addition to this, for employees who are working from home – encouraging the assessment of their workspace for any ergonomic risks and improvements that your organisation can support with is also key to their physical wellbeing.

10. Consider investing in professional support

If your organisation is in a position to offer this, it should be highly considered. For example, by offering counselling to employees who may not be comfortable talking to any colleagues or have no one to speak to at home – this could offer them a safe space to talk through any of their feelings or problems.

Lockdown may feel like an uphill battle but doing what you can to support yourself and others will help to lighten the load, and make it a little easier.

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