With a fresh national lockdown underway, our first Business Club of 2021 recognised the importance of wellbeing for employers and employees in the months ahead.
19 January 2021
In our January session the Business Club discussed the wellbeing measures being introduced by organisations. We were very grateful that Clive Stone, from the mental health support charity Oakleaf Enterprise, was able to share his tips for wellbeing at work. Steve Foster and Catherine Metcalfe from Shipleys led the session.
A moment of reckoning for employers
In December 2020, the World Economic Forum said employers were now facing a moment of reckoning for employee wellbeing and this actually began before the pandemic.
The disconnected working environments, financial stress, and anxiety about health and safety due to covid has certainly made many organisations quickly recognise higher rates of stress, burnout and depression in employees. Subsequently, wellbeing has propelled up business agendas.
A recent article in HR Director listed several key reasons for organisations to support the wellbeing of their people. These were:
Moral & Reputational – when organisations proactively manage wellbeing, support employees and promote a positive wellbeing culture, it creates a more empathetic and supportive working environment that employees value. This in turn can help to retain team members and attract new ones.
Legal – work-related stress, mental and physical ill health claims are on the rise. Employers often face legal action if they’re perceived not to have protected employee wellbeing.
Economic – there is a measurable return on investment for those who invest in high-quality training and wellbeing interventions. The Mental Health Foundation recently pointed out that addressing wellbeing at work can increase productivity by as much as 12%.
Keen to respond
The good news is businesses are responding to the issue… and fast. In the past year many positive examples of wellbeing initiatives have hit the business headlines. These included:
- Wellbeing platforms being created with resources and help for employees to access
- Employers encouraging ‘recharging’ points – eg days off, meeting-free days or daily breaks to spur employees to leave their homes to take exercise in the daylight (particularly in the winter months)
- Providing specialist stress prevention and resilience training
- Encouraging gentle exercise – either for individuals or as team/departmental challenges. Some have provided group classes – for example signing up yoga specialists to deliver online sessions
- Arranging virtual social activities for employees to reduce the sense of isolation and keep everyone connected
- Offering employees free access to mindfulness and fitness apps
- Bringing in counsellors and other therapy specialists for specific issues individuals are facing
What’s been working well for Club members
In our January session, Club members shared wellbeing examples and initiatives which they’d seen organisations roll out. These included the following.
Helping employees create a positive structure and routine when working from home
Many employers have adapted and become less rigid about insisting employees work within certain hours. Instead they are letting employees complete work at times in the day that are better suited to them.
The importance of personal interactions, and how a phone call is often better than an online meeting
Some Club members have been impressed by members of their senior team ringing them up to see how they were. A keeness to check if they’d managed to get out of the house for a break was also appreciated.
One employer had also set up a daily zoom ‘canteen’ which was optional to attend, but employees could meet socially over lunch to just chat and catch up with one another.
Reopening the workplace for those who need it
Other Club members commented on the benefits of facilitating a covid-secure and safe workplace to enable those who are struggling with the isolation of working from home to return to the office. Those who had implemented this had found it gave a real boost to employees’ mental health, motivation, focus and energy levels.
Some Club members praised the training their organisations had laid on to help them create small boundaries within their social and work time at home. At a simple level, this could involve a small routine to mark an end of their working day and the beginning of home-time. Many felt going out for exercise at this point in the day really helped boost wellbeing when working repeatedly from home.
A number of employers were also paying for office equipment and technology to ensure their employees’ working experience at home was more comfortable. This is eligble for tax relief under office equipment allowances for businesses. It also helps businesses bring conformity and control over their systems in the home environment, for example if they’ve provided additional cybersecurity measures and are maintaining and updating any equipment and software.
Club members also commented on the importance for employers to be vigilant to challenges employees are facing and any resulting changes in behaviour. This may signpost stress and mental health issues an employee is developing in the lockdown.
2021 obviously hasn’t got off to the best of starts but, with the vaccine’s planned roll-out, there are certainly more grounds for hope this year.
For the moment, economic uncertainty, sudden change and teams dispersed through remote working continue to be the norm. The wellbeing of employees in these challenging conditions will continue to feature high on business agendas for some time. Organisations have already shown great care and initiative to help their workforces remain resilient and keep well.
The topic prompted an energised discussion and we are very grateful to the Club members for all their great points and contributions. Please also read this excellent article from Oakleaf Enterprise on supporting mental health in the work place – view it here . Thank you again to Clive Stone for his valuable insights and presentation.
If you would like to join our future Business Club events, please contact the Shipleys’ Godalming team for more information.
Specific advice should be obtained before taking action, or refraining from taking action, in relation to this summary, if you would like advice or further information, please speak to your usual Shipleys contact.
Copyright © Shipleys LLP 2021