The widespread optimism surrounding the start of the New Year has swiftly subsided. Is it any surprise, when the headlines are dominated by rising death tolls, tougher restrictions and ever-growing Government debt? ‘Normal’ life feels more out of reach than ever, and 2021 looks set to be just as disruptive and unpredictable as 2020.
The third Monday of January, nicknamed ‘Blue Monday’, is believed to be a notoriously difficult time of year for many. Cold, dark, and depressing, most of the resolutions made on December 31 may have already been broken, and with an even longer stretch until January pay day, many are left dreading the arrival of the unpaid credit card bill as their Christmas shopping catches up with them.
In normal circumstances, back to work would at least mean the return to the buzz of the office. Yet this year, many of us have returned to the same uncomfortable workstation we were sat at for most of 2020. The consequences of such a set up are all too apparent and by now well reported; from isolation and loneliness, to burn out and a lack of motivation to exercise or eat healthily.
Under these circumstances, businesses have an obligation to provide pastoral as well as professional support to their employees. Wellbeing and mental health should be a priority for all businesses, however big or small, so Harry Fenner, CEO of Navana Property Group shares some steps employers can take to support their people from afar.
Cultivate a trusting working environment
To succeed in the increasingly digitised world of work, employers must commit to developing a high trust working environment.
Are all employees treated like the professionals they are? Is there a sense of fairness where employees feel they are operating on a level playing field across all parts of the business? Are they receiving recognition, opportunities and equal pay? Does the company foster teamworking and collaboration?
All of these things help to make more motivated, engaged and satisfied employees and a high-trust environment result in higher employee retention, lower overheads and better customer and client service.
Consider your employees’ mental wellness
The pandemic has eroded many of the things which provide us with a degree of assurance and comfort. Social connectedness, financial stability and optimism for the future are just three examples. In such a landscape, establishing clear communication routes and reminding teams that confidential support is available can go a long way to preventing any unnecessary angst.
It’s worth investing in a programme of health and wellness activities, especially when a recent study by OnePoll.com found 8 in 10 adults often had days where they didn’t step outside at all during daylight hours last winter. A programme could include challenges and goals for employees to achieve outside of the normal working day.
At Navana, we’ve recently launched our ‘Time to Move’ initiative, where we are giving our team the chance to contribute to a cumulative organisation wide total of 500 hours of activity in a specific timeframe, which we are supporting with ideas, online classes and health tips.
Offer flexible working
Offering flexible working hours will help team members to juggle their personal and professional lives in what is a challenging time for all employees. This is particularly important for staff with nursery or school-age children, who are currently balancing tasks such as home schooling.
More broadly, flexible working has been proven to promote a healthy work-life balance and can reduce stress and prevent burnout during these dark winter months.
Have a clear plan for the business
It is vital for business leaders to be open and honest with employees about the future of the company, and how their role may develop alongside the ever-changing landscape. A clear and transparent strategy with assigned actions will foster collective purpose and provide clarity for the months to come.
This collective goal setting can also help to strengthen team bonds and bring new energy for the year ahead.
Although the concept of ‘Blue Monday’ may be well be based on pseudoscience, it does shine a spotlight on the issues of loneliness and wellbeing.
My view is that if a team is in good health, a business is in good health. Therefore I would encourage all business leaders to invest in and offer as much support as possible to their organisation’s most important asset – its people.
As the famous adage goes, this too shall pass.