There’s no doubt that the COVID-19 pandemic has brought mental health to the fore, and more companies worldwide are looking closely at the wellbeing of their employees than ever before. The management of mental wellbeing should be ingrained in your company culture and should be integral to managing your workforce. Essentially, it should be something you want to manage and not something you have to manage. We’re all returning to an element of normality, so it’s even more vital that we continue with our efforts.
Managing mental health is of course a good thing, but it’s easy to say we need a policy to tick a box, but this should be a long-term shift, not a momentary fix. We can ask the questions, but are we making sure they are meaningful, and more importantly, are we actually listening to the answers?
Change should be permanent
According to research conducted by BITC in 2020, 41% of employees experienced mental health symptoms caused or worsened by work last year. However, in a positive turn, there was an 8% rise to 63% in how employees felt their organisations were supporting their mental health needs.
We’ve seen an unprecedented change in our lives, both at work and home, so looking for immediate fixes to get us over the line just isn’t enough. On the face of it, certain actions that we all took looked like quick fixes, for example, supplying our teams with adequate PPE and flow tests, but in fact, we weren’t just providing PPE; we were protecting our teams and creating a feeling of safety and security.
At Callidus, we went back to the beginning, and we’d urge anyone to do the same, even if you have established strategies. Like many businesses who looked at their business plans at the beginning of the pandemic, people strategies and mental health policies also had to be addressed. We’re operating in a different arena, a different world, and not everything we did pre-COVID is now fit for purpose.
Making it count
While other companies may have decided that it wasn’t the right time to conduct a staff survey, we decided to get right to it. It was imperative to know how our colleagues were feeling amid constant change. It allowed us to evaluate what we were doing, assess whether we were getting it right and what we could do more of. With a focus on health and wellbeing, we asked hard-hitting questions that would help us to adapt our engagement plan and change direction in the way we needed.
It didn’t end there; amongst other things, we introduced:
- Virtual coffee mornings
- Took part in mental health awareness campaigns
- Structured conversations to 1-2-1’s and PDRs.
All to make sure we were asking the right questions. It’s not just about checking in on people. A “yes, I’m fine”, or “I’m doing ok” isn’t a sufficient answer.
Getting back to ‘normal’
Checking that our teams were coping with new ways of working, balancing home and work life, and the inevitable pressure these things brought was paramount. We also put a great deal of work into preparing our teams for the reintroduction to working on-site or in the office. We had to ensure that our teams wouldn’t suffer burnout going from furlough or working from home to being back in the business full time. We took stock around Christmas and decided to close the business early to allow our employees to spend time with their families.
A problem that we all faced at the beginning of the pandemic was how to communicate effectively when we’re all working remotely. Naturally, as others did, we invested in technology and used our resources to our advantage.
We also updated our processes and policies alongside this but putting meaning into what we were doing was critical for our company. If there was ever a time to instil more stability and structure in our company, it was now.
As we’re moving a step closer to normality, we’ve introduced more face-to-face activity, which at the moment is centered on how we can bring exercise and nature into our lives more seamlessly. In addition, the digital solutions we began to explore back in March 2020, has now become second nature to our teams, and our communication has improved no end – a significant change that has cemented an open and honest culture, which is certainly here to stay.
So, at the end of a challenging 18 months, we can ask the question, where are we, and more importantly, where are our teams? More supported, more engaged, more balanced, and more importantly, growing together day by day.