Spotting signs of bad employee mental health is a challenge for many businesses. Working from home has not made it any easier, especially when it comes to monitoring stress from burnout – something that one in three UK workers believe is an inevitable part of their career.
It’s becoming increasingly difficult for HR teams to establish wellbeing initiatives that reach the needs of employees, with new challenges affecting working lives on what seems a monthly basis – a third of workers in the UK are considering changing jobs to combat the rising cost of living.
Poor mental health also costs businesses billions of pounds every year. New research from Deloitte reveals the cost of bad mental health has increased to £56bn in 2020-21, compared to £45bn in 2019.
It’s clear HR teams need to have effective strategies in place to best sustain mental health in their workforce, for not only their employee's sake but also for overall business success. This starts with monitoring employee wellbeing, introducing effective initiatives, and measuring successful outcomes.
Regular catch-ups encourage employees to freely and openly discuss their true thoughts and opinions.
Monitoring mental health
To best support employees, HR teams need to work with line managers to establish monitoring strategies that track how their teams are coping at work - and at home. Both HR teams and line managers can then work with individuals struggling with mental health on providing the best possible,and appropriate, support.
One of the easiest ways to monitor employees’ wellbeing is for HR teams to encourage line managers to organise regular, recurring check-ins with their teams.
Whether in-person or virtual, regular catch-ups encourage employees to freely and openly discuss their true thoughts and opinions, about both work and personal matters. This promotes a culture of belonging and will make employees feel valued and engaged, ultimately improving their mental health.
Although, businesses must remember that employee privacy and trust should always sit at the heart of any strategy introduced. This means that before encouraging the wider business to act on monitoring processes, HR teams should always outline plans to employees prior so that they’re aware of the steps being taken to help them.
Investing in wellbeing
Once businesses have put in place monitoring strategies, it’s then time to take action and introduce wellbeing initiatives for employees to take full advantage of. Here are some suggestions:
- Mindfulness: Offering access to apps like Headspace or Calm gives employees permission and space to think. It reduces emotional exhaustion, increases openness and develops compassion - this also enables businesses to offer useful tools exactly when they’re needed.
- Flexible working: Where they can, businesses must also maintain a flexible working culture. Working from home has helped many to achieve a healthy work-life balance. Although the majority of businesses are encouraging staff to return to the office, this must be approached with care and consideration. Staff don’t want to see their newly won freedoms being eroded – this is a sure-fire way to increase stress for employees who value the extra time at home. One way to maintain flexibility is to offer early finishes on Fridays. This will encourage people to log off early and kick-start their weekend.
- HR technology: Workplace technology, when implemented and used correctly, sustains good employee mental health. Utilising HR portals to communicate initiatives means employees can easily find relevant information quickly and at any time - something that’s especially important with home working.
It can also be used to streamline efficiencies and reduce workloads. Most employees feel bombarded and anxious with unnecessary and overwhelming admin. HR portals that collate workplace systems – timesheets and leave requests for instance – free up an extortionate amount of time for employees to focus on day-to-day priorities. They can then aim to log off in time, rather than staying late to carry out admin heavy tasks.
Quarterly feedback forms are a great way to measure whether or not an initiative is working.
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Once health and wellbeing initiatives are in place and employees have access to the resources and tools they need, HR teams must make sure they are measuring successes and identifying areas in need of improvement.
Quarterly feedback forms are a great way to measure whether or not an initiative is working. Ask employees if they’re using the tools available, how they’re finding them and if there is room for improvement - if one person is feeling concerned, it’s likely other employees are feeling it too. These forms should always remain anonymous so that employees have an easy and safe environment to share.
Encouraging real-time feedback is also recommended so that line managers and HR teams have the most accurate picture of daily workplace struggles.
Certain HR tools can send pop-up questions directly to employees' devices, asking how they may be coping with their workload. Employees can then feedback in the context of their current situation, not trying to recall past information.
It’s also always a good idea to add mental health KPIs to business performance goals. This will help gauge wellness culture. For instance, tracking the number of complaints that reflect mental health culture, employee participation in mental health events and employee turnover rates. This will help effectively monitor outcomes and show areas in need of development.
Making a positive change
Mental health is an ongoing effort, not a tick-box exercise. It must be carefully monitored so that all employees are getting the help they deserve, and any initiative introduced, must be measured if strategies are to be a success.
Is your company a Culture Pioneer? Is it consistent evolving its wellbeing strategy and taking a holistic approach to supporting the mental, emotional, financial and social needs of its whole workforce?
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