The current pandemic will inevitably have a huge impact on employee engagement. We all invest a lot of time and energy into our work, so when a big change comes along, like the COVID-19 pandemic, it can be unsettling. At this time, employees will be worried about a number of things – from job security, loss of income, to leadership uncertainty. It’s important that businesses carefully and tactfully address these anxieties and put supportive measures in place for the wellbeing of their staff. We caught up with Jamie Mackenzie, Director at Sodexo Engage for his views.
If you can spot and stop emotional stressors before they happen, you can prevent the situation from spiraling. It takes a lot of self-awareness, but employers have a huge part to play in encouraging employees to stop, take a breath and monitor their state of mind. It’s easy to become wrapped up in a constant state of busy and forget that it’s not a healthy place to be for a prolonged period of time. It can quickly become an easy route to burnout.
First and foremost, employers need to encourage a good work-life balance. This can be done by creating a healthy email policy of not being online late at night or early in the morning, and encouraging staff to continue to take annual leave regularly. A healthy balance between life and work is even more important right now when everyone is working from home and longer hours can easily creep in.
During times of change and uncertainty, it’s important to recognise and reward employees that rise to the challenge, help and support their colleagues, put in extra effort to get a job done, and show a real commitment to overcoming the inevitable bumps in the road.
Commend colleagues in front of their peers or give more regular words of encouragement. Sure, they may seem like small gestures, but they go a long way in improving an employee’s mental wellbeing and general work satisfaction.
Building a supportive company culture
It’s no secret that people work better in a supportive environment. It is really important that businesses create safe space where employees feel empowered to speak up about their mental health. It might sound obvious, but regularly checking in with employees and finding out how they’re doing is the easiest way to open up the line of communication.
Of course, right now this must be done virtually, but during these conversations, managers should ask simple, open questions that encourage staff to talk about their concerns. Managers should be approachable and have the skills to spot the telltale signs that someone might be struggling. Changes in behaviour, acting withdrawn or being unable to cope with daily tasks could all be clues.
Mental health awareness days also need to be acknowledged and mental health training should be part of the agenda for all businesses. All these things will help break down barriers and make it much easier to open up when times are a little tough.
Ways of providing support
Employers should consider offering staff access to a range of employee benefits that support emotional wellbeing. For example, many organisations have nominated mental health first aiders – a person who is trained to spot potential red flags and be there for employees when they need to confide in someone.
Employers should look to address all relevant triggers that can lead to bad mental health. Services like online counselling and access to external information specialists that can offer consultation from legal to financial, also go a long way in helping employees feel supported.
Employers have an incredible opportunity to really help staff deal with their worries. Anything from managing the day-to-day costs of living, to accessing external financial advice are at an employer’s fingertips. It shouldn’t be all on the employer though – it’s always worth asking staff what they want and how you can better support them. After all, every organisation will need something different and this way the offerings provided can really hit the mark.
It won’t be easy and the current climate will certainly prove challenging for many of us. But how employers engage, communicate and guide their employees now and through these times of change will have a substantial impact on levels of commitment, team morale, and productivity. With the right support, everyone can and should feel supported and happier at work as a result.