CIPD’s (Chartered Institute of Personnel & Development) on-going survey and analysis of the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on working lives has found that on the whole, colleagues are satisfied (7-in-10) with how their employers are responding to COVID-19. Most companies did a solid job of addressing their colleagues’ basic needs of safety, stability, and security during the first phase of the COVID-19 crisis. However, those needs are evolving, calling for a more sophisticated approach as organisations enter the next phase. Some organisations have had colleagues on furlough for 9 months. These colleagues could be more vulnerable than those working as they experience isolation and question their worth to the organisation. Some even report feeling guilt for those who are working.
I have heard wonderful examples of things my clients have been doing as leaders to support their team’s well-being. Tim, a Director for Lombard Technology told me:
“As well as so many of our colleagues working remotely, and all the challenges that brings with juggling home life and mental health, it has also been a period of considerable change brought on by the need to adapt to new ways of working in the pandemic. The level of change can cause anxiety at the best of times so we have really focussed on how we can ensure our colleagues feel supported.”
As a result, Lombard have launched a wellbeing hub which is a one stop shop for colleagues to easily access information about fun events they can take part in via webinars, physical activity challenges, and general information to keep themselves healthy. On top of this every team has a well-being champion who makes sure the messages around the importance of wellbeing are received; creating a community of support where colleagues feel they can ask for and receive help.
Of course, the impact of Covid-19 on Colleague wellbeing hasn’t just been as a result of more remote working causing physical challenges of new workspaces – Kitchen tables, garages, bedrooms which are far from ideal and the mental stress of isolation. Depending on the sector, the crisis has hit organisations differently. Frontline workers are running harder and faster, employers must also manage staff exhaustion and the stress that comes from the pressure to perform during a crisis. Many will have feelings of guilt if work prevents them from being able to care for own family and others will be suffering if they choose to self-isolate from loved ones for fear of transmission.
The common factor for everyone is that life is infinitely more stressful.
A holistic approach
It’s important to protect both mental and physical wellbeing. As well as keeping colleagues safe, make sure they know where to find information, guidance, and support for mental health. Encourage open channels of communication to hear how colleagues are feeling and, importantly, listen and respond. Consider establishing a hotline or central contact point for colleagues, like a wellbeing hub – and develop in-house channels and champions to respond promptly to colleague questions and concerns.
However, don’t take no news as good news. Make sure you keep inviting feedback and encouraging people to share their experiences. Two-way conversations are essential to building trust. Make everyone is aware that significant changes in a team member’s personality or work could be a sign they are struggling. Regular one-to-ones for Colleagues to ‘check-in’ with line managers are more important than ever. Ensure your line managers are equipped to deal with what might come up and have a process for feeding back and collating trends that might then inform your strategy on-going.
Boost motivation and engagement
For some it can be hard to find the energy to remain motivated. Setting clear and short-term objectives alongside a clear vision and strategy for the short-term will encourage teams to work to a common goal. This is also a good time to re-articulate your values, which help keep people grounded in the familiar and give them a roadmap for navigating uncertainty. Make sure that your short-term vision remains aligned to your organisations purpose and values and keep messages consistent to maintain trust and confidence. Performance bonuses are scarce right now for many, could you instead provide recognition for those that are living your values?
Keep communicating, even when you don’t know the answer. People will always interpret silence as bad news.
Just remember that people are at the centre of your organisation and they will remember the Covid-19 crisis for the rest of their lives. How you look after them in the most difficult times will define your culture and values and your employer brand. Leaders are made in the toughest times, look out for them emerging from unexpected places and nurture them.
You must encourage individual colleagues to take ownership and accountability for their own wellbeing – so they come through the crisis more resilient than when they went in.
Not sure where to start?
I can help. As an executive coach, health, wellbeing, and nutrition adviser, I work with executives and teams on these very issues, helping them to develop strategies that enable them to feel and perform at their best. Get in touch now to find out more.