Mental Health and Wellbeing Support

Over the last 6 months mental health and wellbeing support has become a hot topic, as data emerges about anxiety and stress levels in the context of returning to work and to the workplace.

What do we know?

Some key statistics regarding mental health and wellbeing are coming to light:

  • 72% or employers are planning to bring teams back to the office by mid-October 1
  • 33% of UK workers don’t have faith in their colleagues when it comes to hygiene protocols 1
  • 44% of workers are worried about sharing equipment 1
  • By end May 2020 calls to the UK’s national domestic abuse helpline had increased by 66% 2
  • The number of adults experiencing depression has doubled during the pandemic 3
  • 37% of people in the UK are suffering from high anxiety 3
  • 22% of those with no pre-existing mental health issues now report having ‘poor’ or ‘very poor’ mental health 4
  • 65% of those with pre-existing mental health issues report that those issues are now worse 4

In the context of these statistics, fears of a mental health crisis seem well founded.

What does this mean for employers?

There are potentially many ways in which the mental health crisis will affect employees, as people will have had very different experiences of the pandemic. Here are some of the issues your employees may be having:

  • Job security – as more and more businesses announce job losses, anxiety about impending unemployment will be high
  • Isolation – for some remote working has left them feeling isolated and de-motivated
  • Mental and physical exhaustion – for many who had to balance work and childcare and/or home-schooling it has been extremely stressful and tiring, creating what could manifest itself as ‘burn-out’.
  • Personal relationship stress – spending such a long time in close proximity with partners may have put a strain on relationships
  • PTSD and bereavement – for anyone who contracted the virus, there are reports of potential longer term mental and physical issues; and those who have lost loved ones may still be dealing with grief and feelings of guilt

Employees may find it difficult to focus, concentrate and  stay motivated and engaged. For those who are working from home for the foreseeable future, the feeling of being disconnected from their colleagues may continue. Without interventions, these issues could result in both a downturn in productivity and difficult and sensitive employee relations issues to manage.

Pro-active employers will definitely be on the front-foot if they can support employees through the next phase of the coronavirus pandemic and beyond.

Why should employers focus on mental health and wellbeing?

As well as the ethical and moral arguments for supporting employees who are struggling, there is evidence to suggest that wellbeing could increase productivity by 12% and that unhappy staff could be 10% less effective. 5

If employers do provide support for their employees, they would undoubtedly become more resilient. If issues arise at any point in the future those employees will be able to manage more successfully, leading to less employee absence.

Employers will also find that how they treat people during this time will define them and their brand. Being supportive will drive both loyalty and make them a more attractive employer for the best talent in the longer term.

From a practical perspective, if employers ‘catch people’ before they fall, they will avoid difficult employee absence issues which can be time-consuming and expensive to manage.

There is also the issue of the duty of care employers have for employees. Employers have a duty to minimise risk of health and safety issues, and this includes the risk of mental health issues. Risk assessments should be done, steps taken to minimise risk and these should both be communicated to employees to ensure employers don’t breach of health and safety regulations.

In addition, as mental health issues can be regarded as a disability, employers have a duty to make reasonable adjustments to accommodate and support those with mental health issues.

What can employers do?

There is a plethora of solutions to address the mental health and wellbeing. Here are some ideas:

Communication: Make people feel connected and find out how people are feeling.
  • Conduct regular group and individual check-ins
  • Hold virtual team meetings – peer or manager lead
  • Create virtual ‘pub’ meet ups over video conference
  • Appoint ‘check-in’ champions in each team who can re-create the ‘water cooler’ catch up moments
Line manager proactivity: Create a supportive environment.
  • Be a sympathetic ear – not just focussing on work / outputs
  • Train managers as Mental Health First Aiders
  • Ensure managers are keeping up to date with how individuals in their team are coping
  • If returning to workplaces is causing anxiety, ensure managers are discussing options and solutions to help address those anxieties.
  • Communicate with employees to reassure them about what the company is doing to minimise risks
Update or create a Mental Health and Wellbeing Policy

Re-visit your existing policy and update it to account for issues created by the coronavirus pandemic and different norms relating to work and workplaces. This will create the framework within which the business will function in this area, and create consistency.

Research, propose and implement a variety of support ideas to tackle the variety of issues people may be experiencing, to cover physical health, diet, financial health as well as mental health and wellbeing. All of these factors play a part in keeping employees healthy in body and mind.

If you would like to discuss support you could put in place for your employees, get in touch with Helpful HR here.

References:

1 – Solopress Survey via HR Review: https://www.hrreview.co.uk/hr-news/workers-fear-returning-to-work-due-to-colleagues-lack-of-hygiene/126356?utm_source=Gatormail&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=HR+Daily+Friday+-+17-07-2020&utm_term=Government+bury+its+%27head+in+the+sand%27+in+response+to+House+of+Lords+IR35+report&utm_content=108317&gator_td=o3G5kc7rW2VpP8pLbvvPKX8i65b%2blZYHTpgu38q3MGha0tK5Q3sXgBaP1prmh6Uahsujuoe2CuGf6B3yFqphtXubssiphNgkvdH1KnKkAGx3lvuNf7CA%2bu8sK%2bvpNvjxNCLDEd8aOmaV9F4yS%2bf%2f2pCjx64K0MeyKpb1VszBRbl53pQV6Ng3a%2fnLQ8Dir5b9XfQusRxJpXxh1CL8mZhbHg%3d%3d

2 – Independent: https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/domestic-abuse-lockdown-reports-school-reopen-coronavirus-a9703926.html

3 – Office of National Statistics via People Management: https://www.peoplemanagement.co.uk/experts/legal/supporting-workers-mental-health-during-covid?utm_source=mc&utm_medium=email&utm_content=pm_daily_03092020.Employment+law%3a+Supporting+workers’+mental+health+during+Covid&utm_campaign=7295441&utm_term=1115500

https://www.peoplemanagement.co.uk/voices/comment/employers-must-act-restore-workforce-mental-health?utm_source=mc&utm_medium=email&utm_content=pm_daily_24072020.Opinion%3a+Employers+must+act+to+restore+their+workforce’s+mental+wellbeing&utm_campaign=7295441&utm_term=1115500

4 – Mind via People Management: https://www.peoplemanagement.co.uk/voices/comment/employers-must-act-restore-workforce-mental-health?utm_source=mc&utm_medium=email&utm_content=pm_daily_24072020.Opinion%3a+Employers+must+act+to+restore+their+workforce’s+mental+wellbeing&utm_campaign=7295441&utm_term=1115500

5 – University of Warwick study in 2015: https://warwick.ac.uk/newsandevents/pressreleases/new_study_shows/

 

Getting redundancies right

In a tough economic environment employers may conclude they need to reduce headcount and make some redundancies.

If that’s the case, there’s a statutory process to follow before making people redundant. It’s important to get the process right to avoid unnecessary disputes or Employment Tribunal claims for unfair dismissal.

Here are some key points to remember if you think you need to make redundancies.

Make sure it’s a genuine redundancy

Redundancy is about the role, not the person. The redundancy process should never be used to dismiss a specific employee in place of performance management and a disciplinary process. A redundancy is only genuine if it fits within one of the following descriptions:

    • the employer ceases to carry on the business in which the employee was employed,
    • the employer ceases to carry on that business in the place where the employee was employed,
    • the needs of the business for employees to carry out work of a particular kind cease or diminish, or
    • the needs of the business for employees to carry out work of a particular kind in the place where the employee was employed cease or diminish.
Preparation is key

Once you have established the reason for the redundancy of a role, prepare some notes for the consultation process. These notes should include key information you need to communicate:

    • why you need to make redundancies,
    • which jobs are at risk,
    • how employees will be selected for redundancy,
    • the number of people who could be involved,
    • how you plan to carry out redundancies,
    • how redundancy pay will be calculated and
    • details of any agency workers at the company
Fulfil your obligations

Establish the timeframes within which you need to consult and whether you need to consult a trade union, or elected representatives. If you plan to make more than 20 people redundant within 90 days you will need to do collective consultation, so it’s important to know your obligations.

Plan for the process

Prepare your notes and make sure you know the timeframes and consultation requirements. It can then be helpful to create a communication plan for the consultation process. The plan should include details of the consultation with potentially redundant employees as well as other team members who may be affected by the changes.

Make proposals

When the consultation is complete, a redundancy can be confirmed. True consultation involves listening to alternative ideas to avoid redundancies, considering any contractor or agency worker roles instead and redeployment opportunities within the company. It’s also important to ensure the affected employees fully understand the reasons for the consultation and what it means for them specifically. Prior to consultation being completed any redundancy plans should be presented as proposals, subject to consultation.

 

If you’re making large-scale redundancies, it can result in a long and complex process, but whether it affects one employee or 50, it’s still important to get it right and consider their rights and how the news will affect them. Good planning and communication is key.

We work with businesses during difficult times and help to take away the worries about getting it wrong, so if you’re business needs to make these difficult decisions, get in touch with Helpful HR.

Leadership tips

Congratulations! You have achieved that long yearned for appointment or promotion in to a leadership role. The joy of your success may be palpable, and rightly so. However, an element of apprehension may make an appearance at some point.

Here are some top tips for any newly appointed leaders out there, to make sure you’re set for success.

Identify some quick wins

The first 100 days is a typical gauge of success, so speak to key people to identify some quick wins and find the right people to deliver them. Motivate, monitor and measure their progress, provide support and celebrate the successes. Make sure that the delivery of the quick wins sets the tone of your leadership style and be consistent.

Meet people and listen

Your success is dependent on other people, both in and outside of the business.  Make a commitment to meet:

  • your direct reports and key people in their teams
  • other leaders in the business (if you’re part of a senior leadership team)
  • key partners in other business areas, with whom you can share knowledge
  • key customers and suppliers

When you meet with them, ask questions about how things are going and what could be better. Listen to their thoughts and opinions and make notes.

Create a long-term plan

Whilst the quick wins serve a purpose, you also need to think long-term. Use the information from your initial meetings to identify the long-term priorities. Ensure you communicate to your team about these priorities and your reasoning. Ask for feedback, listen, then make a final decisive plan, identifying the ‘what’, ‘why’, ‘who’ and ‘when’ for each of your priorities.

Overcommunicate

Be visible and accessible. Arrange and stick to regular meetings with peers and direct reports, as well as key project leaders. Share information with them and ensure they share their progress with you.  Involve your direct reports in defining the ‘how’ in your plan. Your success is dependent on how it is delivered, as well as the ‘what’, ‘why’, ‘who’ and ‘when’.

There are many other things you could do, and there are many articles about successful leadership if you look for them. But these tips should help to send you off in the right direction. If you need support in a new leadership role, get in touch with Helpful HR.

How flexible are you?

Parents and carers were given the legal right to make a flexible working request in 2002. From 2014 any employee with over 26 weeks’ continuous employment with their employer has the right to request flexible working. However according to a recent CIPD report, Megatrends: Flexible Working, the number of employees working flexibly has flat-lined since 2010.

Why not be flexible?

Apprehension and at times downright negativity about flexible working is not unusual. Requests to work fewer hours, compressed hours and/or working from home often provoke this response. This is particularly the case if the employee making the request manages other employees. Employee visibility is the issue and managers think if they can’t see their staff, they don’t know they’re working. Managers question their employee’s honesty, convinced they will be ‘out shopping, or walking the dog when they should be working’.

Where does this lack of trust come from? Employers need consider if they expect employees to deal with work outside of their contractual working hours. If they expect flexibility but don’t reciprocate due to a lack of trust, employee goodwill will wane.

Reciprocal flexibility works

Perhaps this is a bit extreme, but trusted flexibility can work both ways to the benefit of everyone. It just requires a bit of extra thought about how it can work. If employees want flexibility and their employer gives it to them, their engagement, loyalty and commitment will increase. If employers refuse requests, employees will ask why they should go the extra mile when the company isn’t prepared to do the same for them. They will be less motivated and may begin to ‘work to rule’ or look for a job elsewhere. I don’t think any employer would want that outcome, especially at a time when the ‘war for talent’ seems tougher than ever.

Managing flexible employees

It’s a reality that some jobs really can’t be done flexibly, but every requests need to be considered properly, to see if it can be accommodated. Managers are often concerned about managing less visible employees. But if outcome-based objectives are set, it should be easy to identify and address a dip in performance levels. It’s entirely possible that managers feel overstretched and feel they don’t have the time or energy to consider how it might work. But companies that provide flexibility will benefit from increased talent retention, engagement and productivity. At a time when there are reported skills shortages, surely it’s worth the effort?

If you would like help managing flexible working in your company, or support in dealing with a request, please do get in touch.

Blue Monday?

Apparently this coming Monday, 15th January 2018, is ‘Blue Monday’, the most depressing day of the year.  January can be a tough month after the (hopefully) joyous Festive Period and a welcome break from work. But can we really pick one day out of the 31 in January, or the 365 in the year, and say that this coming Monday 15th January 2018 is the most depressing of all?

The science bit

The term Blue Monday was, so we’re told, invented by the marketing team at Sky Travel in 2005 in an attempt to encourage people to buy a holiday at a quiet time of year. There’s even a formula for calculating the date, which includes weather, debt, days ‘til payday, time since Christmas, resolutions broken. It also includes some feeling factors which somewhat compromise the ‘science bit’.

Resistance is not futile

There’s definitely a case for rebellion here. January is tough, but we shouldn’t be told how to feel on a particular day, should we? There are enough challenges to face in this fast-moving world, so let’s all resist this phenomenon! To help us, there’s even a website dedicated to encouraging positive acts on Blue Monday.

Blue at work

The Blue Monday phenomenon does have potential implications for businesses. There may be many people who believe the hype and expect to feel blue on Monday 15th January 2018. And purely for this reason, they may succumb to the negative feelings Blue Monday is designed to exploit.

Be part of the solution

What can employers do to counter these negative feelings? We live in a time when businesses are struggling and ‘austerity’ feels like it has become part of our culture. So how can you motivate a workforce who are feeling the pinch and maintain positivity at work?

There’s no easy, one-size fits all answer. People are motivated in different ways, whether it’s hitting advertising targets and achieving bonus, or receiving accolades for good performance.

Top tips

Here are 5 top tips that should support the rebellion against Blue Monday:

  • Spend time getting to know your team as individuals. Find out hat they enjoy, what motivates them, how they like to be recognised.
  • Make sure you diarise regular 1-1s with your team for the year. Show your commitment to them through the giving of your time.
  • Give thought to what you can do to help them achieve their career aspirations. It may be development, training, work-shadowing, job swapping, coaching and/or action planning. There are many possibilities to consider.
  • Start the year with a team meeting to share ideas and make a plan for the year ahead to which everyone can contribute.
  • Consider a physical activity, to get those endorphins flowing, maybe a team walk at lunchtime, or a sponsored activity which everyone can engage in.

These top tips should help to create a positive working environment where employees can flourish at any time of year. Developing an open, inclusive work place where everyone feels valued will definitely help to build this positivity.

So, while these top tips won’t necessarily stop people from being conned into feeling Blue on this coming Monday, it might help in the longer term.

If you would like to find out more about what you can do to build a positive working environment, we can help, so do get in touch with Helpful HR.