We reflect on the things we’ve done to support staff wellbeing during Covid-19 and share what’s worked.
1. Make time for informal group meetings
Socialising in small groups can be great for our wellbeing. In fact, evidence shows that being close to and valued by other people is a basic human need. We all miss those lost ‘water– cooler’ moments that gave us a brief respite from our working day to chat or confide in a colleague.
As a result, many staff now require a place where they can share their stresses and strains, both work related and social, within the safety of a supportive group. With many staff now working from home, many opportunities to socialise in the workplace have moved online to platforms such as Microsoft Teams, Zoom or other video conferencing software. These informal meetings provide short opportunities to socialise, share staff burdens through peer support and prevent isolation.
It is essential for staff wellbeing that these opportunities to socialise in informal meetings are encouraged, regularly scheduled and most importantly, are expressly not about work tasks. This isn’t to say that staff cannot express pride, apathy or exhaustion with their work, but this should be done in a relaxed environment. Here are some suggested meeting styles but make sure you tailor informal meetings to the needs of your staff:
Tea Break Style – (15-30 minutes) – A friendly and light-hearted chat similar to those chats staff used to have when getting coffee/tea from the communal kitchen (remember those?). This tends to work best as a daily or weekly drop-in session.
Team Chat Style – (15-45 minutes) – A more focused session with members of your work team. You could do this as a text-based chat on Microsoft Teams or Whatsapp but it is good to see/hear your teammates. The trick to these sessions is keeping work talk out of it and embracing the social aspect. This kind of session is more about fostering honesty, comradery and support amongst a team.
Check In Style – (30-60 minutes) – A more structured informal meeting where one member facilitates and all participants are given an opportunity to share how they are feeling, their plans for the week outside of work and to make one positive affirmation for the week ahead. This session is more about peer support, sharing burdens with colleagues and recognising that others may be feeling the same.
2. Make space for one to ones
Following on from our last point, it must always be kept in mind that some members of a team don’t feel comfortable sharing things in groups. They may prefer to socialise and share on a more one–to–one basis. This might be a regular catch up with a manager or a trusted colleague.
Whichever is preferable, both are useful tools in helping to keep in touch and allowing employees to share their thoughts and views with others, which will in turn help to protect their wellbeing. This may already be happening within your organisation but it is important to establish that these wellbeing focussed meetings are encouraged. It is also crucial to support those providing support to others, as this can be a heavy burden when managers or colleagues are dealing with their own stresses and strains.
3. Fill in a Wellness Action Plan
Often in the workplace we devise strategies and action plans to effectively manage our approaches to complex challenges and achieve our goals. If only the same methodology could be applied to managing the wellbeing of individuals.
The mental health charity MIND has developed just such a resource known as a Wellness Action Plan.
Encouraging staff to create their own Wellness Action Plan can be extremely helpful in identifying negative triggers for their wellbeing. It can help staff to recognise when they need to take time for themselves or interact with others. A Wellness Action Plan is essentially a structured framework of questions that will help individuals to tailor their own strategy for managing their wellbeing.
If an individual chooses to, it can be helpful to share their Wellness Action Plan with a trusted colleague or line manager who can help to recognise triggers and promote actions that are positive to their wellbeing. Having that separate point of view can really help to identify when staff are on a path to negative wellbeing that they can’t see for themselves. It is important to remember that each individual’s Wellness Action Plan is personal and it must not be shared without their consent.
Bonus Tip: Make use of these existing resources for employers!
There are a number of resources available to employers to help manage the wellbeing of their staff. This includes but is not limited to Mental Health First Aid Training, Access to Work and the Employee Assistance Programme.
- Mental Health First Aid Training
Mental Health First Aid is a certified course that works in a similar way to physical First Aid certification. As with physical first aid, having trained Mental Health First Aiders in the workplace, and providing them with the necessary time and support to act in this role, could be extremely helpful. For more information: http://www.smhfa.com/
- Access to Work
Access to Work is a Government Scheme, which provides advice and an assessment of workplace needs for individuals with impairments or long-term health conditions who are already in work or about to start work. Grants may also be available to help cover the cost of workplace adaptations. This can be anything from funding for ergonomic office furniture to new software, training or devices, which can make a real difference to staff wellbeing, as well their productivity, once these barriers are addressed. For more information visit: www.gov.uk/access-to-work
- Employee Assistance Programme
Many organisations already have some form of Employee Assistance Programme but aren’t using it to the fullest. This can often include a range of confident independent counselling services and other aspects of Occupational Health that can be used to support staff. If your organisation is already paying for this resource, it is essential that staff are encouraged and supported to make use of it as it could bring many benefits to their wellbeing. If your organisation does not already offer an Employee Assistance Programme, it is highly advised that you address this. Some examples of available service providers are listed below:
Remember, it’s not one size fits all, making sure that your workplace works for you and your staff will mean different things to different organisations and individuals.
As we learn to adapt to and emerge from Covid-19 there has never been a more important time to focus on our collective wellbeing at work. We hope you find these tips and resources for improving wellbeing in the workplace useful and that this article acts as a starting point for discussions about wellbeing in your organisation.
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