For You HR, as leading experts in the fields of HR and Organisational Development, we have not only have achieved success as a small business in the field of wellbeing for over a decade but also in our combined careers of working in the health sector (over 50 years of NHS experience)! So, we welcome this opportunity to share our experience and what we do in the wellbeing arena – it fulfils our desire to support those that have a shared synergy, to care about their most important asset… You and your employees. As our strapline states “it’s all about the people”.
Our environments in work and home life have been and continue to need to adjust. As distancing continues to be the new ‘norm’ and we get to grips with how we go about our daily routines now and for the months and years ahead, we have to find ways to nurture our wellbeing as part of daily life – recharge our resilience levels, and be prepared for what today, tomorrow, the next day and beyond might bring…
We are dealing with unprecedented change that we have never experienced before, and if we do not maintain our wellbeing, the impact can be costly.
There is also the overlay of the recession and the latest study from the Institute of Employment studies & The London School of Economics (LSE) report that there will be some groups more disproportionately affected by the recession than others. We must, therefore, ensure whatever our business circumstances that we are mindful of everyone’s unique circumstances.
As business leaders, we have a duty to ourselves, as well as manage the impact on those we employ and identify how stability can best be achieved with the changes that have been or need to be introduced.
Over the last few months, we have seen many cases of admirable resilience, determination, and compassion to care. So, despite the immense difficulties we have experienced, there are some simple positives coming out of the bad. However, we need to ask ourselves can such ways of working continue.
- The impact on wellbeing remains a concern and depending on circumstances (in office / home working) wellbeing will need to be nurtured and managed differently
- There are degrees of flexible working being applied, even if this was not the ‘norm’ before which is a real positive, but engagement must be maintained so isolation doesn’t creep in and/or pressures of workloads aren’t detected
- Workload volumes need to be monitored, I am sure you can all relate to the unpredictability of change in demand, direction, and dilemmas to work through so that continual check-in is vital
- Most importantly – we need to be able to spot the signs, have the conversations and be equipped to find a solution – this may be for ourselves and/or for those we are responsible for.
Make sure you know what is going on in your team
- Have regular 1:1’s, even if a brief catch-up, check-in and put health and well-being as a top topic to discuss, do this for your agendas for any team meetings too (in person or through online platforms) – most importantly keep talking
- Discuss the pressures and workloads, work together to plan work effectively.
- Understand what motivates people, what their personal triggers are for stress, do they feel resilient and able to manage their needs (wellbeing), do they feel secure and supported in their job, whatever the circumstances, even if difficult (i.e. Jobs at risk, less resource and high work demand). Trying to maintain a sense of belonging, togetherness and inclusion will help greatly to work through the difficult times.
- Know what really matters to your team, remembering that everyone is different. Most importantly, as mentioned, be inclusive (on an individual and group level)
- Are they content with their work–life balance, are you able to encourage this and promote the role of exercise and healthy eating to support their well-being, for example
- Would they feel comfortable raising any ongoing health concerns or personal issues with you?
- Try and make yourself personally available to talk; encourage your team to open up to you by showing empathy and really listening to people’s concerns.
Lead by example to promote healthy working habits
- Maintain and continually promote the expected levels of hygiene
- Create time in your working day for exercise or other activities that can help reduce stress and burnout. Take time out to rest and recharge after busy periods – take regular lunch breaks and use your full annual leave entitlement.
- Encourage flexible working opportunities that might help you and others achieve a better work–life balance.
- Take time off when you are unwell; do not struggle to juggle you need to rest and recoup. Statically ‘Presenteeism’ (working when ill) is known to be bad for health and bad for business and generally takes twice as long to recover.
- 5Avoid working excessive hours, checking in with work when you are on holiday.
- If you need to work outside of ‘usual working hours’ or do so because of flexible working, perhaps make it clear that you do not expect a reply immediately.
- Consider using an email signature to advocate your approach to flexible working: ‘I work flexibly at You HR, If I’m sending this email outside of regular hours, it’s because it suits my work pattern just now, so just to let you know I don’t expect and immediate reply.’
- Take care of your own well-being and do so by visibly showing your team that it is okay for them to do the same.
Review workloads, duties, and responsibilities
- Keep supporting training and development that people need to perform their job to a good standard and help them to understand how they contribute to wider organisational goals.
- Set clear and realistic deadlines and expectations.
- Make sure everyone’s roles and responsibilities are well matched with their skills, experience, and career aspirations.
- 4. Wherever possible, give your team a say over what they do and how they do it.
Reflect on your own management style
- Does your team know where they stand with you?
- Do you demonstrate fairness, openness, consistency, and decisiveness in your team approach? This will enable your team to be more likely to cope well under pressure than if you are unpredictable or indecisive.
- Do you balance the positive and constructive feedback you give your team? Even when difficult messages need to be conveyed / change is needed, give a good balance of autonomy and support.
- Do you demonstrate how you are comfortable in having sensitive conversations and how you do not tolerate unacceptable behaviour, promptly doing so without delay?
- Do you treat people as individuals and flex your management style to suit the needs of each team member? As mentioned before, most importantly ensure you are inclusive
- Do you encourage feedback to help with your reflective practice on your management style? Access this free management style checklist to learn more.
Discourage ‘presenteeism’ in your team
- If someone in your team is under the weather, make sure they stay home, recover, and return to work only once they are fit and healthy to return.
- Make it clear that you do not expect anyone to work when ill. Recovering means switching off and not working altogether, not working from home, it means rest and recuperation.
- Only contact the person to ask how they are; and do not enquire about work unless urgent. When they are ready to return, invest time to bring them up to speed with anything they may have missed / need support with when returning.
- Look out for signs that someone in your team might be unwell or struggling to perform in their role due to ill health and have contingency plans in place if someone needs to take time out.
- Some people feel under pressure to not take their annual leave, or to work while they are on holiday (Leaveism). This is counterproductive, as people need to have a break from work. As a manager, you are an important role model, so make sure you take your leave and resist checking in with your team while you are on holiday. Your team will in turn be more likely to do the same.
Manage the mental health of your team
- An increasing number of people are now working from home, so pay particular attention to the support they need to stay connected.
- Make time for social conversations. This increases rapport, reduces feelings of isolation and eases communication between people working from home. You could set up a daily virtual huddle – essential for keeping connected as a team and checking in on each other’s well-being.
- People can be more sensitive if they are feeling isolated or anxious, so tailor your feedback and communications, particularly for those working remote – everyone should still feel engaged and valued whether in work or remotely.
- Listen closely and read between the lines and as mentioned try and meet online if not in person to gauge body language, signs that people may not be themselves.
- Help your team avoid burnout and overworking by encouraging regular breaks and clear start and finish times for the working day and as mentioned, encourage exercise (psychical and mental – like yoga, Pilates, mindfulness) and a healthy diet.
- Remind your team of their existing health and well-being benefits if you have some (such as employee assistance programmes, counselling or occupational health), and how to access them when working remotely. And if you do not have any in place, find what other resources are available – The charity Mind offer some great free resources.
- Keep instil trusted relations, support, and clarity of expectations for all.
All industries are experiencing frequent change and there’s no doubt that we’re working within a constantly changing environment that can be demanding and require you and your team to cope with unpredictable workloads, as well as help to find way to meet demands.
The Impact of COVID-19 The impact of COVID-19 is felt by all and this scar will take time to heal. Business leaders need to be pragmatic when managing people that have been absent (isolating, furlough/the new scheme, homeworking or otherwise) from the workplace for a long time, probably a period of absence that many employees have never experienced before. A must have is good HR practices enabling you to keep a handle on each situation and how best to manage.
- Recognise when work expectations are too much, take a break and keep a track of working hours.
- Work smarter not longer and work collaboratively to focus on the priorities.
- Manage time and your business plans with agility.
- Know what is causing stress in your workplace right now and identify what can be done to reduce the stress levels.