Keeping people well and in work: 6 strategies for business leaders

Lizzie Buxton

Written By Pat Ashworth, Director of Learning Solutions

24th March 2021

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In a poll of 2,000 workers by Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) England 25% said that their workplace had not checked in on their mental health since the COVID-19 crisis hit one year ago. Similarly, 29% (nearly a third) have never had a conversation with their line manager about their mental health.

Only a third (32%) of employees said that mental health and wellbeing support improved over the pandemic, compared to 43% who said that their support stayed the same or had worsened. 41% said that they had less frequent check-ins or none at all.

MHFA England has called on employers to increase support for employees, including encouraging regular wellbeing check-ins, facilitating activities to stay connected and ensuring managers have the training and resources to support staff.

“These statistics are particularly alarming given the affect that the pandemic has had on the nation’s mental health and the fact that it features so highly at the top of news agendas now. In June 2020, 1-in-5 people in the UK suffered from depression, that’s twice the numbers we saw pre-Covid in 2019 according to data from the Office of National Statistics. The Centre for Mental Health, an independent charity in the UK, has predicted that this will translate into approximately 10million more people needing new or additional mental health support as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic,” says Pat Ashworth, Director of Learning Solutions at AdviserPlus. “It’s therefore vitally important that employers do what they can to support colleagues within the workplace, to keep people well and in work.”

Six simple strategies that employers should consider to successfully improve health and wellbeing in the workplace:

1. Promote a consistent culture across the business

Establish a culture where self-care and looking after your wellbeing is not only acceptable but is encouraged. The message should be widely communicated across the business, to employees at all levels, so that employees will not only take time to focus on their own health and wellbeing, they will also start to notice and pay attention to the wellbeing of their colleagues. Having a wellbeing strategy will demonstrate to employees that their health and wellbeing is a priority and that the business is committed to supporting the wellbeing of its people.

2. Leadership support

Leadership support is crucial in building resilience and supporting employees’ wellbeing in the workplace. Business leaders who play an active part in promoting wellbeing initiatives will help set a culture of wellbeing and lead by example. The knock-on effects may result in employees being more open to making use of the services provided if they see their leaders and managers positively promoting them. Don’t forget that leaders themselves may also require support to not only manage the wellbeing of their teams, but also to manage their own wellbeing. Ensure that leaders know where they are able to access support too, should they need it.

Also consider what training leaders may need to help them support colleagues who may be experiencing difficulties with their health and wellbeing – both physical and mental. Our leadership development programmes can provide a safe space for managers to talk openly about concerns that they have and can provide them with the skills and knowledge to manage those sensitive cases.

3. Support each other

Employees will often look out for their customers, their clients and their patients, but it’s also important that they look after each other – and this should be actively encouraged. By providing your teams with knowledge of what to look out for, and what they should do if they notice that one of their colleagues is going through a tough time, they may feel more confident in approaching their colleague and signposting them to the support available. When colleagues support each other, trust and morale is often increased and in turn will have a positive impact on improving working relationships. Knowledge can be provided through training on mental health and building resilience, through wellbeing portals within the business, or within written communications such as information books and posters.

4. Allow time

Too often, making time for self-care is at the bottom of our list of priorities. As leaders, we can encourage employees to look after their health and wellbeing by allowing them time within their working hours to focus solely on themselves. In our webinar ‘Keeping People Well and in Work Through Covid’, Nikki Hosty, EDI Lead at Calderdale and Huddersfield NHS Trust, speaks about a wellbeing hour which the Trust has factored in to employees’ working week, to encourage colleagues to practice an hour of self-care within their schedules.

5. Physical care is just as important

Our physical health is strongly connected to our mental health. Often, as one deteriorates, we notice a change in the other, for example, a symptom of stress can be headaches, and a symptom of anxiety can be panic attacks. As employers, you can promote physical health in a number of ways:

  • Promote regular exercise by creating social groups within the workplace, for example, lunchtime and after work/ socially distanced walking or running clubs.
  • Encourage healthy and balanced diets by considering the food and snacks available in kitchens, vending machines and canteens.
  • Provide support for physical issues, such as additional equipment or support through doctors and physical therapists.
  • Offer employee assistance programmes, financial advice and guidance, and social activities such as book clubs and coffee mornings.

6. Signpost support available

When wellbeing support and initiatives have been identified and established, it’s important to ensure that they are well communicated throughout the business, so that they know themselves when and how to access, but can also signpost colleagues too, should they need support. Ensure that your people know:

  • What support is available
  • Who can access support
  • How support can be accessed
  • How quickly support can be received
  • When support can be accessed

For more information about how we can support you with your wellbeing strategy and deliver training to your managers, download our brochure. 

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