By Shaun Williams, CEO & Founder, Lime Global Ltd
We hear, almost daily, that many of the long-term repercussions of the COVID-19 pandemic are likely to be felt in terms of our mental health and resilience. This is perhaps not surprising, with the last 18 months seeing people isolated from family and friends, worried about their physical health, and concerned over economic and financial uncertainty.
This was evident within our recent report – Keeping up Appearances: How Pleasanteeism is Eroding Resilience – which revealed that 40% of UK workers now feel less resilient than they did before the pandemic, with over a quarter (26%) disclosing that they’re struggling to cope at work, and over a third (34%) admitting to feeling the same way about everyday life.
Despite so many of us experiencing these challenges, people aren’t opening up about how they’re really feeling, with over half (51%) suffering from ‘workplace pleasanteeism’ – feeling the need to put on a brave face regardless of what they’re going through.
As workplaces are increasingly reopening their doors and welcoming employees back into old routines, it is important that employers support staff’s wellbeing and open up the conversation about mental health. Particularly, as workers learn how to navigate the new hybrid working model, all while living amid the ongoing global pandemic.
Allowing pleasanteeism to plague UK workforces will undoubtedly have a lasting, negative impact on the mental health of thousands of employees, particularly as mental health is already under pressure. But what can organisations do to open up the dialogue around mental health and ensure they’re meeting their employees’ needs?
Fortunately, there are many quick and easy steps that employers can take to place a greater emphasis on wellbeing in the workplace which will not only be beneficial for their staff but will also benefit their employer brand to become an employer of choice.
Understand what’s going on in your business
An (anonymous) employee survey can be a simple and easy way to learn a lot about how people are really feeling. When coupled with a quick look at absence data, you can reveal a lot about your company culture and staff with minimal effort. Locating these pain points is the ideal first step before taking on any cultural or practical changes.
Give your staff the opportunity to regularly take a step back
With hybrid working encroaching on work-life balance, companies need to remember to actively encourage their employees to take a step back to find some headspace. We’re all guilty of working outside of hours when things get busy, but that time to extract ourselves and recalibrate is essential during high-pressure periods. Simple measures such as a ‘free hour’ during the working day that can’t be filled with meetings or a 10-minute mindfulness practice can really help staff reset and ultimately build their resilience.
Point out selfcare initiatives
Mental health outside of work is just as important as workplace wellbeing, and not all initiatives need to be run internally. Instead, suggestions for small, mindful practices that employees can do in their own time can make a big difference. From regular exercise and meditation, to yoga classes and long walks in the fresh air – any form of selfcare is a positive step in the right direction to increased resilience. If that doesn’t seem like enough, there is also a range of cost-effective wellbeing apps that don’t require monthly subscriptions or additional expense, so why not point employees in the right direction?
Mental health training can be just as valuable as first aid training
Something else to consider is the vast variety of workplace training courses available, and not least for mental health. These courses can be a useful tool to spot any potential mental health concerns, while helping businesses learn how to approach them. To support this work, it may also be helpful to select someone in the company to be in charge of championing mental health. This will show staff that the organisation is serious about supporting mental health, while ensuring that they know exactly who they can go to for help.
Regardless of workplace pleasanteeism, it is clear individuals are eager to take control of their mental health and are increasingly turning to their employers to help them do so. But there is still a long way for employers to go to give staff the vital support they need.
That support doesn’t need to be onerous or a strain on resources, in fact businesses of any size can take important steps to help staff open up about their concerns, build their resilience and improve their mental health. The most important thing is to start now, to make it acceptable to talk about mental health, to create real and tangible change that will help build resilience and make workplace pleasanteeism a thing of the past.