Posted on: 10/09/2021
Wellbeing and mental health awareness have been important topics throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, as the UK experienced lockdowns, isolation and changing rules and regulations. Both businesses and their employees have needed to adjust their ways of communicating, living, and working. As the need to adapt has increased - allowing those who can work from home to do so whilst increasing health and safety measures in the workplace for those who can’t - the need to adapt existing wellbeing initiatives in the workplace and highlighting the importance of mental health have increased.
The ramifications from mental health issues can lead to UK businesses losing between £33-42 billion per year with 50% of these costs attributed to ‘presenteeism’ – where an employee is physically in the workplace but is significantly less productive as a consequence of suffering from mental health concerns. These statistics reflect the impact of mental health issues as a whole and are likely to have increased since the start of the pandemic. With World Suicide Prevention Day marked today (Friday 10th September), it is a reminder of the more serious implications.
Business owners and employers can follow a checklist as outlined by the Mental Health Foundation to help build a mentally healthy workplace:
Some of these principles may be easier to implement than others, especially if employees continue to work from home, or aren’t in the office as much. However, this is a worthwhile investment as research shows that addressing wellbeing at work can increase productivity by as much as 12%.
At Exemplas, the wellbeing of our workforce is embedded into our company culture, core values and everything we do. The use of Wellness Action Plans – a series of questions that can help identify what keeps an employee well at work, what causes them to become unwell, and the support they would like to receive from a manager – allows for a personalised way of dealing with wellbeing, which is especially useful for those working remotely.
For individuals who feel there is genuine compassion and support at work, answering openly and honestly in their Wellness Action Plans is an easy choice. In contrast, workplaces where discrimination is not addressed might lead to a lack of honesty where employees may continue to suffer, leading to the stress, illness and sick leave mentioned above. Through our Wellbeing Team, we continue to build on and adapt our wellbeing initiatives which include 24/7 access to a GP service, online mental health platforms, and a team of Mental Health First Aiders.
We lead on the delivery of Hertfordshire Growth Hub, powered by Hertfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership. The service acts as the central point of access for business support in the county. As part of the Growth Hub’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, a Wellbeing and Resilience Programme was designed specifically to support local business owners and employers, providing them with guidance, advice, tools and resources to aid them in looking after their wellbeing and that of their workforce. The programme includes a guide that was developed in partnership with the Behaviour Change Unit at Hertfordshire County Council and UCL Centre for Global Non-Communicable Diseases. In addition, businesses can access a host of expert on-demand videos covering various aspects of wellbeing in the workplace, such as “Supporting Your Workforce During Challenging Times” and “Wellbeing and Resilience”.
Corinna Hartwig, SME Wellbeing Project Coordinator at Hertfordshire Growth Hub, comments on what wellbeing in the workplace looks like right now:
‘Business leaders and managers need to step up checking in on staff more than ever, as hybrid working is creating new tensions, anxieties and wellbeing issues. During lockdown, there was a sense of “getting through this together” that has now waned and is replaced by a greater sense of isolation and silo working for staff working from home who might feel lonely.”
Corinna continues “Staff going back to the office face the stresses of commuting, seeing people again/or meeting new colleagues for the first time and experiencing an office space that has changed. This can lead to exhaustion and increased levels of anxiety. It is therefore important to implement a wellbeing strategy and wellbeing action plans that include social time, checking in on staff and perhaps daily motivation/goal setting – and above all – listening to your team.”
Wellbeing in the workplace continues to be an important consideration, especially as what ‘normal’ looks like has changed – in the workplace, the home, and in daily lives.
Find out more about the public sector contracts we deliver here.
Hertfordshire Growth Hub
The central point of access for business support in Hertfordshire.