Employee wellness and mental well-being has been gaining traction in the modern workplace in recent years. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has thrust this issue into the forefront of businesses. As workers are told to work from home in a frenzy, the structural and mental support provided by businesses may vary across the board. It is however an issue that is very much alive and requires urgent attention.
As Victoria Gilbert who leads the Wellness Consulting within Workplace Advisory for occupiers throughout the Asia Pacific market at Colliers International writes: "Everything has shifted in light of COVID-19, and the pursuit of workplace wellness will accelerate…..It is widely known that control of our everyday environments has a direct impact on our health and well-being — now more evident and important than ever — and the workplace must adapt in the short-and long-term."
In other words, issues that could have an impact on the emotional, mental and physical health of workers that were previously put on the backburner now have to be urgently addressed by responsible business leaders to ensure that employees remain meaningfully engaged and productive. With the increase of unemployment, a looming economic crisis and ever-changing work structures, losing focus on the wellness of your staff, is simply not an option.
As the pandemic still rages on, the World Health Organisation’s Director General, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus reminded that: "...it’s vital to support individuals around the world, especially those who are now adjusting to a new reality. We know that for many people, life is changing dramatically,” he said. “During this difficult time, it’s important to continue looking after your physical and mental health. This will not only help you in the long-term, it will also help you fight COVID-19 if you get it.”
Leaders need to Engage and Support
In the midst of these challenging times, leaders need support and wellness too. It is important for leaders and management to apply their internal wellness programs to their own well-being. By doing so, this will encourage employees to follow suit. When your staff see the leadership team earnest in adopting wellness for themselves rather than a corporate benefit, employees will be more inclined to adopt these programs from the company and not feel penalised for wanting to take care of their own well-being.
Because of the pandemic, mental and emotional health issues have surged. Common themes such as managing burnout, no separation from work and home boundaries, video conferencing fatigue, fear over ongoing Coronavirus and lockdowns, relatives in quarantine and social distancing woes, unemployment rate and deploying of different job roles - the list of drastic changes seem endless during these times, leading to stress and anxiety.
In today’s climate, how can companies go about boosting and enhancing the well-being of their staff?
Connectivity and Engagement Resources
Many workers who have never worked from home find themselves floundering in their new work environment. They do not have the set up to work remotely. They have no printers, no work friendly desk set up or much resources. Companies will need to provide guidelines on how to create a healthy and safe workspace in the home. In certain cases, businesses may also have to invest in hardware/equipment for workers to use in the home.
Employee mental health and engagement levels will also be at an all time low now. Hence, leaders can start by being intentional in connecting with your workers regularly. If there is no plan in place for specific supervisors to be in charge with remaining connected with specific workers, some workers may slip through the cracks.
A connectivity flow structure should be drawn up and implemented to ensure that each worker has an upward connectivity chain to remain properly engaged. Instructions and specific roles for your teams have to be clear and direct. Ambiguity causes uncertainty which could cause unwarranted stress for the employee. It could also result in job duplication which could ultimately end up not fit for any purpose and a much waste of time.
Are structure and reporting lines straightforward and accessible? What does the chain of command look like and are escalation processes clear? These are processes that will need to be prioritised now.
Put in Place a Wellness Health Plan
The Coronavirus will no doubt have ongoing effects on the mental and emotional health of workers. Businesses will need to be mindful of this and put in place a mental health and awareness plan. Conduct bite-sized meditation exercises either virtually in small groups or provide meditation apps and relaxation techniques for your teams online and encourage them to participate at least 30 minutes a day. Create engagement activities such as a "Reach-out" hour whereby an employee makes it a point to check in with another colleague either on Zoom or a phonecall just to find out how they are doing and share similar issues they are going through. Studies have shown that by reaching out to help another person and by giving back in simple terms such as friendly advice or a listening ear, it can allow feelings of gratitude to return and fear to reside.
Physical Wellness is another important aspect of a holistic well-being as well and is even more so emphasised during lockdown periods such as now. Do not underestimate the powerful effects of physical wellness. Make online workouts available either via a free virtual exercise app or by using a corporate health app to launch corporate challenges and get employees engaged in physical activity while networking with their peers. Exercise can alleviate the effects of mental health issues as our bodies release endorphins. This ultimately reduces feelings of stress and anxiety, helping us to feel more optimistic, energised and capable of dealing with pressurised situations such as the current norm. These measures have to be simple and easily accessible.
The last thing your teams need now is to feel overwhelmed, therefore Engaging Leaders can assist by facilitating these wellness experiences virtually or on-site when lockdowns are eased. Companies need them in place as soon as they can to bring back productive and engaged employees, and to continue having a viable business. We are thought leaders in many respects and are here to help businesses navigate the post COVID employee welfare landscape. Customers and employees need to know they are working with companies who will take care of their people and give back to society in bad times. Discerning companies which apply such wisdom will use this season to offer genuine support, whether for their employees or communities, and reap the benefits when this pandemic has passed.
We would like to add that if any of your employees are having serious trouble in coping with the effects of this pandemic and lockdowns financially, emotionally or mentally, please reach out to these hotlines for help below:
The National CARE hotline: 1800 202 6868
Care Corner Counselling Centre (Mandarin): 1800 353 5800
Silver Ribbon (Singapore): 6385 3714 / 6386 1928/ 6509 0271
Singapore Association for Mental Health: 1800 283 7019 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 6pm)
Institute of Mental Health (IMH): 6389 2222
Samaritans of Singapore (SOS): 1800 221 4444
Monica Tan, firstname.lastname@example.org
Monica Tan, Engaging Leaders, leads our clients through a journey of performance and change. With more than 15 years of client and project management experience, she serves as a key advisor to our clients.