Focussing on mental health in the new world of hybrid working

With World Mental Health Day on 11th October, Business Reporter spoke to CEOs and business leaders find out what they are putting in place to help support their colleagues, partners and customers adapt to a new hybrid world of working

Alex Arundale, Chief People Officer, Advanced

“Generation Z has had a very difficult time over the past couple of years with many starting their first jobs, working remotely. They have missed out on essential learning-by-osmosis alongside experienced colleagues and on the fun associated with working with other talented and energetic individuals. There has been no office banter and little opportunity to bond with team-mates who they have only ‘met’ via video call. Instead, many have been struggling to work in less than ideal environments at home.

“Our Workplace Trends Report 2021 reveals that one in four 18-24 year olds was working from their bedrooms during the pandemic and 50% said they wanted to return to office-based working, for at least some of the time. This group can come across as demanding, because they really want what they do, to matter. It’s important that leaders don’t dismiss their sometimes challenging approach as ‘woke’ in a derogatory sense. They have a strength of challenge and a different way of thinking which is exactly what we need to drive our businesses forward.

“We need to learn from them and show them the trust and respect they deserve. After all, they have performed brilliantly so far, during this difficult start to their careers. We make supporting employee wellbeing a real priority and encourage managers to engage regularly with employees using check-ins and video calls.

“This is particularly important for younger employees. When they’re working at home we encourage them to take proper breaks and switch off their computers at the end of the day.“

James Hallahan, Director of Hays Technology, UK & Ireland

“Technology professionals are looking for more flexibility now, to be able to work from home all or part of the time, and having clear training and skills development is very important to them.

“During the pandemic we launched a free online product for candidates, with training in upskilling and also wellbeing support. Organisations that focus on supporting the wellbeing of remote workers will be the most successful at keeping this in-demand talent. Hays has also launched a free product for our customers, Hays Thrive, with online courses to help them manage the health and wellbeing of employees during the pandemic.

“Everyone needs to be involved in company culture, and regular communication within teams supports this. We have our own POWR app for our employees, to help them learn to manage their mental health and wellbeing. Ideally there should be a mix of work-focused and social communications, so that people have a chance to chat and enjoy getting to know each other – humans are social creatures and we all need this interaction.

“Organisations that just leave them to get on with it, and don’t build strong relationships within teams, will suffer from churn, and lose out in the competition for the best IT talent. “

Marco Fanizzi, VP and General Manager of Commvault, EMEA

“While almost everyone on our team is lucky enough to have friends, family and a job which offer a foundation for happiness, when all three of these things are challenged together, the strain is immense and most of us have no previous experience of such extremes to draw on.

“Business leaders now have a greater responsibility than ever before to respond effectively to mental health challenges. “Our leadership team has taken strong, proactive measures as a global organisation by designating four mental wellbeing days for all employees in addition to regular leave.

“It is very important for us to give our employees clear additional consideration to adjust to the continually evolving balance of personal and work elements in their lives.  These are important for us to keep our employees well and focused on their wellbeing, but we are also still identifying and working on resolving emerging issues around employee wellbeing in other ways.

“We still don’t know the full consequences of COVID for mental health, but it’s essential that employers and their teams focus on positive, effective initiatives such as Employee Resource Groups to take action on specific topics and support people who need it.

”Another initiative we’ve introduced to help with the strains around hybrid working is to ensure that we encouraged more spontaneous interaction, not just relying on planned and formal calls. Many are missing the comradery of being in an office, and a spontaneous conversation over the telephone is much better at helping people offload and bond with others, than group video calls.

“We have also taken strong action as a global organisation with four additional designated mental wellbeing days for all employees on top of all regular leave.”

Sam Fuller, Founder and MD, The Wellbeing Project

One of the challenges for leaders is that they often try to fix things and help people resolve their problems. That isn’t their job. It’s about understanding and listening, being flexible to people’s individual needs and keeping an eye on them. This helps to build psychological safety which is essential if organisations want to retain valuable talent.

“At The Wellbeing Project we advise clients about how to improve wellbeing within their organisations and make sure we adopt the same guidelines for our own teams. The pandemic has increased the pressures on everyone to keep going, and one of the key ways to avoid burnout is to make sure there are times throughout the day to switch off – to have a cuppa with another family member or colleague, go for a walk or even just have a change of scenery by working in another room for a while.

“We have adopted a policy of no emails or meetings between 1-2pm, so that everyone can take some time to do this.”

Janette Martin, CEO, 360 Resourcing

“At 360 Resourcing we are encouraging people to work in a hybrid way, so that they are working from home part of each week to avoid the commute and maybe find time to collect children from school and manage other commitments. It’s about finding a healthy balance that protects everyone’s health and wellbeing while not reducing productivity.

“We need to take a more human approach to getting the work-life balance right now, as we know people can get on with their work from home and be just as efficient as they were before. On the flipside we have a lively and sociable company culture here and it’s been really refreshing for everyone to be able to come back into the office again. I think getting that hybrid combination right is really important for everyone’s happiness and health.

“During lockdown a lot of people got a puppy and we are a dog-friendly workspace. Having pets around from time to time is a recognized way to combat stress and they bring a little bit of light relief during a busy day.”


Main image courtesy of iStockPhoto.com

© Business Reporter 2021

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