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. B