The last couple of months have proven particularly challenging for many, as workplaces across the globe adapt to the challenges and changes brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, the importance of mental health support has come to the forefront.
For far too long discussing mental health was deemed a workplace taboo. To this day, 60% of employees keep quiet about their psychological wellbeing. With many workers experiencing some level of stress and anxiety due to the COVID-19 pandemic, mental health support is particularly crucial.
Mental health struggles are far from one-off occurrences - as much as 80% of the population will face a challenge of this nature. Research shows that the vast majority of employees believe company culture should support mental health. Providing employees with the support they need improves engagement levels whilst simultaneously bolstering recruitment and retention efforts.
The need for communication and connection is at an all-time high. With the vast majority of workforces dispersed, it falls on digital technology to underpin every enterprise’s efforts for guidance and support.
There are six central challenges that every leader should address in the workplace:
1. ISOLATION: Loneliness is on the rise
Research from Cigna finds that 61% of adults experience a sense of isolation and much of this sentiment is correlated with their workplace. A rise in remote work is likely to exacerbate feelings of loneliness, as employees who have grown accustomed to group lunches and team meetings no longer have a colleague to turn to.
The solution: Use every channel at your disposal to cultivate connectivity.
There’s no way around it: IRL office happy hours and team-building excursions are off the table. However, bonding initiatives are not out of reach; they just need to be reimagined. Leaders should take the initiative to drive communications across various social channels and plan virtual team meetings. Exploring new mediums for connection can yield promising results. After implementing a custom virtual hug feature, one of Unily’s clients experienced a 14% rise in social activity across their intranet. By arming your workforce with compelling digital outlets, your organization can efficiently combat loneliness and encourage new outlets for self-expression and sharing.
2. BURNOUT: An always-on mentality
Many employees are overwhelmed by their to-do lists; 77% of workers report feeling burnout at their current job, according to Deloitte. The move to remote work can exacerbate this always-on mentality by blurring the lines between work and play.
The solution: Encourage balance.
70% of professionals believe their employer is not doing enough to alleviate burnout within their organization. Be the exception to the rule by looking out for the needs of your workforce holistically and cultivating a culture that encourages employees to take a step away from their to-do lists from time to time. Think about introducing digital detox hours or “no-work-chat” social calls to encourage employees to take a break and invest in relationship building.
3. UNCERTAINTY ABOUT WHAT IS TO COME: Fear for the future is prevalent
Headlines broadcast widespread economic issues and soaring unemployment numbers. With millions of lay-offs and furloughed workforces, it’s natural for employees to feel concerned about their future at your organization.
The solution: Lead with sensitivity.
Fear of the unknown can cause many employees’ stress levels to skyrocket. Create and centralize resources for emotional support, including content on coping with anxiety and points of contact for personalised guidance. Provide real-time updates that keep employees in the know whilst also weaving in positive ‘people stories’ that will contribute towards heightened morale. A little optimism can have a lasting impact: after one of Unily’s clients launched a Good Deed Feed dedicated to spotlighting acts of kindness, content views climbed 23% demonstrating an appetite for positive stories.
4. TRANSITIONING TO A NEW NORMAL: Employees are transitioning
From how employees spend their free time to the ways in which teams connect, COVID-19 has reshaped daily routines. Workers may feel overwhelmed by the changes they are experiencing.
The solution: Set users up for success.
Create a one-stop shop for employee support. Utilise a modern intranet to centralize resources that will smooth the transition to remote work, including explainer articles, video how-to’s, and guides on the topic. In addition to offering guidance to end users, a comprehensive platform will streamline content creation processes for those responsible for ensuring staff wellbeing.
5. MAINTAINING MORALE: Many employees are struggling to maintain a positive outlook
With the majority of events and activities on hold, it’s easy for everyone’s spirits to take a nosedive.
The solution: Get creative and launch new initiatives devised to challenge the monotony of daily life.
Whether it’s a wellbeing scheme or a charitable project, give employees something to get excited about and encourage everyone to get involved by publicizing the launch on your intranet’s homepage. Update blog content regularly and incorporate stories with personality and a positive tone. Another option for boosting morale: take advantage of social media to support colleagues and swap stories. After one of Unily’s clients devised a #creatingmemories hashtag to help team members through hard times, reactions increased 134% and mobile usage doubled.
6. BALANCING DEMANDS OUTSIDE OF THE WORKPLACE: Juggling childcare and work demands can prove challenging
Workplace tasks aren’t the only items on your team’s to-do list. With most children out of school, many employees are now managing family responsibilities including childcare and overseeing remote lessons.
The solution: Recognise emerging challenges.
First and foremost, acknowledge that many employees are likely experiencing a new balancing act. Be understanding of these circumstances and offer flexible work options when needed and appropriate. Launch a dedicated parents’ social channel to give employees an outlet to share their concerns, connect with colleagues facing similar challenges, and exchange tips and advice.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Unily, a global award-winning, top ten next generation employee experience platform and intranet provider founded in 2005, with a leading portfolio of FTSE 250 and Fortune 500 clients including British Airways, McDonald’s, Shell, Mars, L’Oréal and Cathay Pacific, has 3,000,000 users, and is at the forefront of the digital workplace revolution, supplying the world’s biggest brands with market-leading intranet software tailored to the needs of the modern workforce.