Covid-19 has perhaps been the most effective market disrupter of 2020 – if not ever – for almost every sector. It has brought about a host of business considerations and such significant change that prioritising feels almost impossible. The challenges of remote working and Covid-safe spaces, clawing back lost profits and furlough scheme administration are among the many urgent issues competing for business leaders’ attention. These are, of course, joined by many other challenges that are deemed just as important, albeit not as urgent.
In my experience, the strategic priorities in the people space (engagement, inclusion and development) typically fall into the latter category. The wellbeing agenda is another, and one that I would argue is perhaps the most urgent of all, particularly today. How people are impacts every single one of the urgent and important challenges above. If people are not OK, they are absent (literally or figuratively), and you therefore cannot do any of the above – certainly not effectively anyway.
So, how can you incorporate healthy practices into every day working life without putting everything else on hold?
Create a team environment that promotes positive mental wealth
Encouraging open conversation about health and wellbeing is key. It is one thing to say that you support open conversations about mental health but, sometimes, you need to play a more proactive role by creating safe opportunities in which colleagues are able to open up.
It is also vital to factor in that we are all unique beings, and what makes one person smile could make another irate. Consider the working environment from a human rather than an internal structure point of view. Some people work better with music and chatter; others like quiet spaces to concentrate or reflect. Some are natural collaborators; others like to work in isolation until they have reached the point of sharing. Use the workplace flexibly and, if you do not have enough space for specific quiet zones and collaborative hangouts, allow remote working to continue – whether at home or in coffee shops (once they re-open!) or wherever it is that inspires your team to do well.
Put rules in place to support your team to thrive, not just survive
It is easy to paddle frantically through the tidal wave of work and forget to take a lunch break, but taking a reasonable lunch break will make afternoon productivity fly. So why not make it a rule? Ensure that all colleagues are urged to take their lunch away from their desk – or at least to switch their emails off if they need to eat at their desk. Similarly, consider how different working practices can support an employee’s personal wellbeing needs. Could you be more flexible with working times to help those who are natural early birds and those who are night owls to be their best selves at work?
Lead by example through actions as well as words
Leaders are influential by their very nature, but they could be inspirational too. If a leader is practically sleeping in the office to ‘get the job done’, then others are bound to follow suit. It sets a dangerous precedent that can cause mass burnout across the board. Leaders need to take care of themselves too in order to take care of the business. So visibly switching off and leaving at 5:30pm from time to time is a good thing, both for your own mental wellbeing as well as your team’s. It’s like an unspoken permission to leave work at a sensible time. And, on the subject of mental health, don’t be afraid to share your own experiences. It is not unprofessional to do so, and believing that it is just feeds into the old-school narrative we are all working hard to eradicate.
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