As we approach the first anniversary of this pandemic, it’s clear that mental health and well-being will be a driver for change this year. We have five quick tips for wellbeing that can support your staff through this current lockdown and remote working.
Why employers need to consider staff wellbeing
Before the tips, let’s take a look at why caring for staff wellbeing is important.
We know that when staff feel stressed, anxious and suffer from depression, sick days increase as a result. In fact, a study by Deloitte estimates that the cost of poor mental health to UK employers stands at around £33-42 billion a year. And with 42% of staff needing to take between 2-5 days off sick with mental health issues, it can cost between £232-580 per employee, per year in sick days.
Yet, you can measure how successful small actions can be by tracking the trends in sick days.
5 quick tips for staff wellbeing in lockdown
1. Encourage breaks
As more employees work from home than at any other time, the natural breaks are removed from the working day. Popping to the kitchen, stopping by someone’s desk, or having a quick chat in the corridor are all less likely to happen when there are fewer people in the workplace. Or not happen at all if you’re working from your kitchen table.
Encouraging staff to take regular breaks throughout the day is shown to improve work productivity as well as mental health.
2. Set boundaries
When you are working from home, and one day looks much the same as the rest, it is easy for the boundaries between work and home life to blur. Moreover, if the leadership is working long hours, this behaviour will be modelled by the team.
Allowing for flexibility in the workday is encouraged, especially if you have staff who need to manage school children as well as their workload. Yet, even with working outside of regular working hours, you should still ensure staff have clear boundaries.
If you need to work late or on weekends, you can do something as simple as setting emails to send on the next working day. Then it sends a clear message about working hours. Overall, communication is important here to let your staff know that they are expected to set some clear work boundaries.
3. Move more
It’s a simple thing but encouraging staff to move more, and where possible to do it outside, will support their wellbeing. Before the pandemic, most of us would have had a commute to work, taken a formal lunch break, or left our desk at regular intervals.
This happens less often when working remotely but research shows that getting outside for breaks in the day, even for a short walk, will help boost morale.
You can encourage staff to recreate a work commute with a morning walk around the block. Or to take a couple of breaks outside.
4. Eat and drink well
If you know that your staff aren’t taking breaks in the day, then they probably aren’t keeping themselves hydrated either. The more we look after our body, the better we protect our mental health.
Some companies have brought in communal tea breaks where they share the good things that have happened that day. Stopping and taking a break together, even if it’s scheduled in, can help your staff to share news over a cup of tea or coffee.
It’s a small thing but these little reminders can help your staff know that you’re looking out for their wellbeing.
5. Create connections
In much the same way that staff will take fewer breaks during lockdown, they are also less likely to connect with their team mates. Those informal chats and chance meetings can’t be replicated on a zoom or Teams call.
Creating connections between people at work is important so that your staff feel part of the team and that their work is valued. As humans, we’re pretty good at giving praise to other people when they do a good job. But when those opportunities are not there, we’re not particularly good at giving ourselves praise.
This means that while we see fewer people during lockdown, we’re miss out on the positive reinforcements. And we need these to know we are doing good work.
When we create connections between staff, we encourage this positivity. And that, in turn, supports staff wellbeing and mental health.
Benefits of looking out for staff wellbeing
These tips for staff wellbeing in lockdown may seem like common sense but our daily habits and routines have changed during this year. There are studies that show people need to pay attention to the healthy behaviours during times of remote working. We are social animals and we look to the group behaviours to guide us in what we should do. If you remove these social situations, you also remove the daily cues and reminders. Therefore we don’t always take the action we need to be healthy in body and mind.
Until our normal social interactions can return, we all need prompts. This will keep us taking small steps to protect our mental health and wellbeing.
Ultimately, for employers, the outcome of supporting our staff in this way means that you will be in the 75% of employees who retain their talent because they’ve put mental health and wellbeing support in place.