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The important role of community for employee mental health

One of the greatest ways COVID-19 has changed our lives, has been its impact on work.  With offices closed, the use of furlough, homes turned to workstations and endlessly changing lockdown rules, people turned to their screens for a sense of connection and community. 

Reflecting on the conversations I have had in the business community, the early-lockdown Friday afternoon Zoom gatherings have become less frequent. All too often there is a propensity to wire in and focus on work, speaking to another person only for a meeting, and even then, with cameras off, now the novelty of video calls has passed. The working day is productive, but intense now that we’re not commuting and socialising in the office. Work is not broken up by a trip to get coffee, fighting with the office printer, or birthday celebrations for colleagues. The opportunity for burnout, feelings of isolation and stress can be amplified, creating that ‘Groundhog Day’ feeling with rising levels of anxiety. For those managing teams, the challenge remains to keep up motivation and morale.

People need a space to decompress and see that they are not alone with what they are going through. Staying connected to a community helps people communicate how they feel without fear of judgement and it provides a sense of ‘me too’, which is vital to allow people to process emotion. Some people get this from friends, family, mentors or colleagues, but some in the workforce either don’t want to burden their support network with their concerns, or simply don’t have a network to turn to. 

With the pandemic potentially having altered the way we work for the long term, it’s important that organisations to offer tools, resources and services to combat isolation and allow individuals to process how they are feeling and connect with others. Everybody is different and what may work for one person, won’t work for another, so having flexibility through a range of measures is key.

When I look at the conversations taking place on our Togetherall platform, there are a host of topics being discussed including managing professional relationships, imposter syndrome, work-life balance, loneliness, and work pressure. Many are seeking advice and confirmation that they’re not alone in going through these difficult experiences. Others simply use our community as a place to vent and write their stories, without expecting a response. Then, there are those who just read and never post. They gain just as much value from ‘listening’ to the community, which helps contextualise their own experience. 

It has been amazing to see that the pandemic’s impact as also fast-tracked pipeline plans to introduce tools to improve the health and well-being of workforces, and I do hope that organisations continue to shine a strong spotlight on employee mental health. With our new way of working likely to continue, providing opportunities to make connections and join safe communities is now as important as providing your workforce with right equipment and skills for their roles.

Yuval Attias
Chief Revenue Officer
Togetherall

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I left with renewed energy, practical solutions and confident with the knowledge that having a Wellbeing Strategy should happen, must happen, can happen! Looking forward to 2020 already!

Karen Greville-Woods, Office Manager, Withers & Rogers Group LLP