How to promote wellbeing at work

29 April 2022      Ruth Turner, Membership Officer

It’s perhaps not surprising that more than two-fifths of UK workers felt anxious about returning to the workplace post-Covid, a CIPD survey has unveiled.

Figures from the mental health charity Mind underline their concern. In a recent survey, 41% of people said their mental health had worsened during the pandemic. Key reasons include work impacting on home life, and worries about job security. As a result of stress, anxiety or depression, more than 17 million working days were lost last year.

With many now returning to the workplace, it’s vital employers seek expert advice on how to help employees return to work safely and put sound measures in place to support staff.

Understanding the issues

When it comes to managing a safe return to work, staff will expect employers to provide guidance. But there’s no one-size-fits-all approach and companies should avoid being too prescriptive. “People will have very different views about returning to the workplace, with some more anxious than others,” says Suff. “Employers – and specifically managers – need to listen to people’s concerns and be flexible.”

Embracing wellbeing initiatives

In response to rising work-related stress, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) recently launched its Working Minds campaign. It aims to bring about a culture change, specifically helping small businesses to recognise signs of work-related stress and tackle issues effectively with easy-to-implement advice.

“The pandemic has highlighted the need to protect the health of employees who have faced unprecedented challenges; the government is committed to building back better and we want to make sure good mental health is central to this,” says HSE chief executive Sarah Albon.

Effective flexible working

The pandemic has highlighted the benefits of flexible working, helping people balance care duties, home schooling and other responsibilities, all while being highly productive.

However, it needs to be managed with a clear policy, with training for managers on how best to support staff. Robert Hicks, group HR director at employee engagement platform Reward Gateway, says having the right systems in place helps. “We’re seeing a focus for employers to offer flexibility at work and at home, reaching employees wherever they are through an engagement platform that is available anytime and anywhere. It makes for more inclusive working practices, especially for working parents and carers.”

Inclusive support

Any approach to wellbeing needs to be inclusive to meet the needs of individuals. Hicks says: “Wellbeing has a different meaning for everyone. Without inclusivity and a people-centred culture, health and wellbeing suffers, and so does an organisation’s overall employee value proposition.”

Reward Gateway helps companies by hosting a range of support and activities across physical, mental and financial wellbeing pillars. Initiatives include investing in personal wellbeing coaches; embracing technology to allow employees globally to participate in step challenges and to connect and celebrate one another; and emphasising education, so different demographics know how each benefit supports their particular needs.

How to help employees return to work safely

Returning to work after Covid, stress, leave or sickness can be daunting for staff and needs to be managed compassionately. Employers should undertake risk assessments and seek the expertise of occupational health professionals.

Mamo at Mind adds: “Employers need to prepare for different outcomes, including worst-case scenarios, such as a return to restrictions, which still can’t be ruled out as winter approaches.” She advises staying abreast of latest government guidance, sharing plans with staff, and reassuring them your organisation is planning as best it can in uncertain times. “It’s also important not to put pressure on staff to do anything they’re not comfortable with or that could put their health and safety at risk.”

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