Top tips for leaders supporting employee wellbeing whilst managing the disruptive impact of Covid-19

Published: 04/05/2020
Author: Leigh McKay, Mental Health and Wellbeing Consultant, WorkWise Wellbeing Solutions
  • Build a sense of community
  • Proactively support employee mental wellbeing
  • Empower your employees to take care of their wellbeing
  • Lead by example balancing healthy working and lifestyle habits

Leadership literature reveals to us many common traits needed to steer the helm of a ship. Great leaders have vision and are clear on where they are going. They exude confidence and inspire others. Not only that, good communication skills are coupled with decision making capabilities too. To say that these leadership traits are being challenged in our newfound unchartered territory is an understatement.

At the best of times, leadership can be a very lonely place and currently there is an emerging need for leaders to be all things to all people. Decision making to support quick changes are required at short notice and responses are needed to questions, where the answers are unclear or don’t exist. Vision is hard to determine with circumstances and outcomes changing by the week. Price Waterhouse Coopers (PWC) have learned from Covid-19 and other past crises that it is the way business leaders respond to these disruptive events that can determine recovery.

Research uncovers how good job attitudes encourage stronger relationship to organizational outcomes in bad economic times than they do in normal or good times. How is this so? Throughout this crisis, there is no predefined way of doing things, but a balance can be struck between inspiring your team whilst looking after yourself too.

Build a sense of community

Man working from home happily chatting on the phone

Connecting and our relationships with others is such an important aspect of our lives and to our physical and mental health. We have an innate need to be involved with other people which in turn has a positive impact on our security, sense of belonging and self-esteem. A 1938 Harvard University study explored, “What is it that makes us happy?” The outcome was relationships and embracing community and connection over wealth, fame and working hard.

Currently it is hardly a case that we are connecting less, many leaders are working harder than ever to keep in touch with each other and their remote based workforce. The need to connect is spurred on by the ambiguity of the pandemic which creates a need for answers through more communication. Yet, with remote contact there is a distinct lack of personal interaction and the nuances that would normally occur in face-to-face environment, which encourage collaboration, goes missed. Isolation can be felt through less personal interactions creating feelings of less belonging to an organisation.

Top tips:

  • Encourage your team to reconnect with your company purpose and highlight everyone’s unique role in this.
  • Connecting remotely has challenges so be clear on your expectations and factor in a degree of flexibility.
  • As your team members adapt to working in new ways, trust that they are trying their hardest and doing as they say they will do.
  • Consider introducing some online social interaction to capture some of the informal, non-work discussions.

Proactively support employee mental wellbeing

There is a growing realisation that our mental wellbeing is impacted as a result of this crisis.

pre-pandemic statistic reveals “One in six people in the past week experienced a common mental health problem.” Given the current lockdown situation this is likely to be higher now.

The ability to have open dialogue to support each other is important. Having an empathetic approach – understanding and sharing the feelings of others, encourages these conversations.

The likelihood is, in recent weeks, we have all experienced feelings of fear, anger and sadness. Sharing or acknowledging this “normal” human element of vulnerability takes great strength but also means staff will be much more likely to talk to you. Walking in the shoes of others may include, recognising some families have loved ones they are supporting be it the elderly or unwell, home schooling or other. Acknowledge too that some of your team members are living on their own and are feeling particularly isolated.

Top tips:

  • Carve out regular and consistent time to check-in with your team members, to see how they are – consistency is key.
  • Aside from these check-ins, let employees know the best time of day and best way to get hold of you if they need to.
  • Watch out for signs of struggling.
  • Knowing you are being listened to at a time like this is priceless. Pay attention to what is not being said and ask questions.
  • Make your company Mental Health and Emotional support protocol clear and accessible to all.

Empower your employees to take care of their wellbeing

Woman stretching outdoors as the sun sets

As a leader, it could be that you are experiencing a growing sense of responsibility to keep everyone else upbeat and indeed teams are watching your cues. Yet some of us are feeling particularly exhausted and lacking motivation. This seems ironic given less commuting and travel – essentially, we have gained some time. This extra time is soon filled with managing home, working, juggling kids, online meetings, over thinking.

Top tips:

  • Discourage presenteeism, if staff are unwell encourage them to take leave to recover and remember to model this behaviour yourself.
  • Make your rules of engagement clear like incorporating breaks throughout the workday and encouraging an end to the workday too.
  • Promote the use of any wellness resources you have made available be it apps like Engage4, webinars, training and challenges.
  • Promote as many wellbeing opportunities as possible for staff to self-empower.

Lead by example balancing healthy working and lifestyle habits

Healthy working and lifestyle habits are key to sustaining good mental and physical health. Good health starts with you, prioritising this and role modelling what you do. The oxygen analogy is so apt here – put your own oxygen mask on before helping others.

Self-sufficiency is a prided leadership trait however current times may require reaching out and developing your own support structure. What are your own help and wellness options? Whether you use peer to peer support, collaboration, ask for help or protect your self-care time – notice what works for you and do it!

Cultivating an environment where people are healthy and well could never be greater. Leadership buy-in is not only key to embedding this culture but essential for leaders to keep themselves in a good space too.

Work Wise promotes sustainable wellbeing initiatives within organisations and communities. We are proud to be partnering with Vidatec to providing exclusive wellbeing content for engage4, their new workplace wellbeing platform.

For more information and latest offers visit Engage4.

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