Ideas: Supporting your employees’ mental health and wellbeing

Whilst working from home is common in many businesses, we can all agree that the current situation surrounding COVID-19 is a once in a lifetime experience. As measures from the government have quickly become more stringent, we’re seeing businesses leave their offices en-mass and set up a new way of working, with heavy reliance on the digital world to keep in touch with their staff and customers. Brenda McLeish shares her tips for supporting your employees

The thought of at least three weeks in isolation can have a huge impact on staff morale and employee health and wellbeing. Mental health can be hugely affected, for some going to work is a chance for social interaction. You might have staff members who live alone, so being told to only leave their house for essential trips could mean they go days without interaction with another human being.

Luckily, we’re reaching a stage where people are slowly becoming more open about their mental health. There’s still a long way to go until we really break the taboo, but we’re seeing positive movements in the right direction to creating an open and honest culture. There are so many ways that employers can support their staff with mental health, particularly at such a high stress time when we only seem to be hearing bad news.

At Learning Curve Group we’ve really worked to support our staff with mental health and wellbeing. We have an open attitude to mental health – so that if people don’t feel okay, they know who they can speak to and how they could access help if they need it. There isn’t a more important time than now for us all to check in on our colleagues more regularly.

Utilise technology 

We’ve been using ‘Workplace by Facebook’ for around 18 months now to share informally within the business, but we’re really seeing the benefits now all of our staff are working remotely. From staff sharing their new set-ups of their home offices, to company updates and motivational quotes – we’ve seen a huge increase of people using it so they feel less alone whilst working from home.

Secondly, and I’m sure the rest of the UK is already on this bandwagon too, but Microsoft Teams has been great for taking meetings online. Where we’d usually have face to face meetings with staff or clients, we’re sticking to our usual schedule but doing it digitally! It’s a great tool for group video calls, as well as communicating within teams and ensuring tasks are completed.

Encourage a healthy lifestyle 

We’ve always been big on encouraging our staff to lead healthy lifestyles. At our head office, we have a clean desk policy with lunch being eaten in our dedicated recreational area to encourage staff to socialise and take time away from their desks, bikes for staff to use to cycle to work and numerous other initiatives like free fruit and filtered water. We wanted to continue with this as much as possible whilst working remotely. Our Fitness Tutors have been doing live workouts on Facebook Workplace at lunchtime to encourage staff to get away from their desks and move a little whilst they’re stuck indoors. Exercise is great for mental health and it’s also a great way to engage staff, although they’re not working out in the same room, there is still a sense that they are working out together.

Keep staff updated

Keep your staff updated regularly and in plain, simple english. It’s a time of high stress and worry for everyone, so keeping staff up to date with how the business is moving is vital. Obviously the situation is very fast moving, but brief updates will provide staff with reassurance. I chair quarterly KIT (keep in touch) meetings where a rep from each team attends and has the chance to ask any questions in an open forum. I didn’t want to cancel so I have taken it online, live through our Facebook Workplace tool to ensure that staff still get the opportunity to ask me any questions they need. We’ve sent communications to all of our staff regularly, so they feel involved and in the loop.

Encourage talking 

We’re huge on ensuring that our staff are talking. We usually hold ‘time to talk’ sessions at our head office, and these will be now online sessions that all staff have the option to log on to. We’ve also invested in staff training, with Mental Health First Aiders that are trained in spotting the signs of poor mental health and know how to support people and where they can signpost them. This has been really useful as we understand that staff don’t always feel comfortable confiding in their line managers, and of course working remotely can be isolating and detrimental to mental health. By having staff across the business who are Mental Health First Aiders, employees have more choice if they would like to confide in, including someone without any bias. No business is perfect, but we’re making steps towards creating an environment that not only reduces stress, but where people feel safe to confide in others if they’re not feeling their best and the results we’ve seen so far have been really positive.

Sharing our knowledge

We’ve just launched a new qualification, NCFE Level 2 Certificate in Understanding Mental Health First Aid and Mental Health Advocacy in the Workplace, which is available to businesses for training for their staff and individuals. As we have access to government funding, it’s also available at no cost which is brilliant as it opens the course up to so many more people. We’ve also opened online learning for this and all of our courses due to the current climate, so we’ll hopefully see people completing this course whilst they’re working from home or in isolation. Signing up is easy, just head to our website and click to enrol. I’m really looking forward to seeing people progress through these qualifications and I hope that we can really make a difference to the stigma around mental health.