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As we enter Mental Health Awareness Week 2020 (18-24 May), the team at Narrative wanted to take a moment to consider how the current economic and healthcare crisis is impacting the mental health and wellbeing of our colleagues and of every individual currently trying to manage their new normal of working from home in the current crisis.

Recent statistics from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) showed that 51.3% of UK adults said that the coronavirus pandemic is affecting their wellbeing, and 46.9% of adults reported high levels of anxiety.

This is undoubtedly fuelled by a mixture of individuals feeling isolated, concerns over job uncertainty and health worries for themselves and their loved ones. All of these factors can contribute to a deterioration of wellbeing and an increase in anxiety.

As employers, we are responsible for looking after the wellbeing of our employees. Albeit impossible to remove all of the concerns illustrated above, there are some key areas in which organisations can help their teams to maintain good physical, mental and financial wellbeing as we navigate through this challenging period.

Equip and encourage flexible working patterns

Some team members will be very comfortable with and used to working remotely, others will not. There are many well documented tips out there, such as setting up a separate workspace to enable ‘off-duty’ time, as well as exercising and eating well; but don’t assume your employees are all aware of these suggestions.

Use internal communications methods (email, internal newsletters or conference/video calls) to assist individuals to have a good understanding of how to positively impact their mental and physical wellbeing. Remind people using top tips for the week, share articles and videos – shape these communications to suit the needs of your team, and ensure everyone is aware that there is always time to discuss mental health and wellbeing with line managers or any existing/new peer-to-peer support mechanisms.

Embrace work and non-work conversations

From remote team coffee mornings to virtual beers on a Friday afternoon, ensuring a number of authentic connections take place as well as work-related meetings shows compassion and goes some way towards mimicking the office banter and ‘normal’ one-to-one exchanges that occur in the office environment.

This can help individuals and teams to stay connected and reduce feelings of isolation. Maintaining this culture of collaborative support is a good blueprint for the future – individuals who feel that their mental health is valued by their employer are more likely to be happier and more productive in their work.

Don’t forget that even furloughed team members can take part in these non-work activities to make their transition back into the workplace easier and ensure that even when they are not actively working, they still feel connected to the team.

Adopt an agile and adaptive approach

Quickly adapting to change will reap rewards in the long run as no one has ever excelled by resting on their laurels, resisting change. In the current landscape, taking an agile and adaptive approach will better equip teams to deal with the unexpected.

There is no doubt that the extraordinary times we are all enduring will be challenging for us all, adopting a fluid and timely response to internal and external changes will help people across the business to balance their ‘work’ and ‘home’ lives.

Make wellbeing a core value

Prioritising wellbeing as a core part of business operations can only be a positive move. Not only does this illustrate internally and externally that you care about your workforce, it shows prospective employees what kind of organisation you are, embedding positive perceptions from the outset.

This year’s Mental Health Awareness Week’s theme is ‘kindness’ – chosen because of its singular ability to unlock our shared humanity. Not just appropriate for individuals and communities, kindness rings true as an essential characteristic for businesses too. Kindness strengthens business relationships, develops and nurtures teams and deepens solidarity and culture.

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There are lots of ideas to boost mental wellbeing across your organisation and support those individuals who need extra help at https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/, as well as numerous local charities on hand to offer support and resources. Take care of each other.

This post was created on 18th May 2020
Under the category Blog
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