As a result of the continuing lockdowns, economic uncertainties, home working challenges etc. at Jaluch we feel employers and HR teams are on a wellbeing precipice. And a precipice is a dangerous place to be!
Many people survived previous lockdowns with good humour and stoicism but this time it seems to be a lot harder. We might put this down to the weather, time of year with dark nights, a slow build up of tension across nearly 12 months, a loss of friendships and relationships as our social lives have been cut short, a sense of disconnectedness from our workplaces that comes from remote working, the pressure of work for many, constant worry and anxiety about family and friends and of course the loneliness and self esteem challenges of furlough for others. The list is long but the reality is that life for many is tough with no real end in sight and that is taking its toll on wellbeing. And that in turn impacts at work.
Perhaps therefore it is time that HR did a full wellbeing audit to identify needs and understand where interventions are required?
A wellbeing audit
An audit will be looking for the following, many of which of course are not stand alone ailments but will present in conjunction with others:
- Inability to sleep well
- Inability to concentrate
- Reduction in exercise
- Increase in alcohol or food intake
- Heightened and continual anxieties
- Musculo skeletal disorders emerging from home working
- Eye problems including dry eyes, ‘zoom’ eyes and itchy eyes
- Withdrawal from the social group at work
- A loss of self esteem
- Unrelenting tiredness/exhaustion – brain fog, reduced productivity
- Low morale and engagement
We are sure there are others. but this list is a good starter for ten when you start to assess your workforce.
You might do your audit through sending out a wellbeing staff survey asking pertinent questions about how they are feeling, what they are finding challenging or struggling with, what support they would value etc.
As an alternative though, why not task your existing staff representatives, or set up a group of staff specifically for the purpose, to start picking up the phone and getting in touch with staff to begin to understand the issues and extent of them. So often managers are maxed out, so why not use your staff to support your staff? Delegation at its best!
However you do it though, its time to communicate, ask questions and listen attentively.
And once you have done your wellbeing assessment, what next?
Well we would suggest you consider some or all of the following – or otherwise identify the themes coming out for your staff:
- Social Connectedness – emotional
- Aches and pains – physical but often also linked to the emotional
- Sleep and tiredness – physical but again often linked to the emotional
- Exercise and food – emotional and physical
- Fun – emotional
If you are not sure about what this is there is a great TED talk by Margaret Heffernan about social connectedness as well as lots of great articles on the topic.
We love her concept that the relationships between people at work are the mortar between the bricks. All business have lots of bricks (tasks) but what brings it all together are the people and the relationships and communication amongst and across the group. And to a large degree we have lost this in the past year.
Very few employees turn up to work just to do the task and take home the money, most of us also really value the social aspect of work, meeting people outside our own households, chatting, sharing, exploring new ways of thinking, bouncing ideas off each other, sharing our woes etc. any employer who disregards the importance to staff of the social aspect of work may well be suffering more than others at present.
Remote working has made social connectedness harder. But you can redress the balance by rethinking your approach to online meetings – less rush/rush through an agenda and more let’s chat as we would do arriving for a meeting, coffee in hand. Rethink how you engage staff when they are not all in a building together or when many are isolating. Build back in some team building – it can be done both online or socially distances, you just need to get a bit creative. Educate your managers about why a balance between communication/relationships and productivity is needed and how damaging it can be to solely focus on productivity.
You might also think about a series of talks or sessions on topics to engage staff with this topic directly. As well as Margaret Heffernan, consider TED talks by Brenee Brown on vulnerability or Esther Perrel on relationships.
Aches and pains
We have been a little shocked to hear about employees not being able to get or afford physio, chiropractic or other support for the aches and pains that have been developing through intensive screen use as well as posture/ergonomic issues resulting from home working in kitchens, bedrooms, living rooms etc.
But what would it cost you, the employer to support with this? We have been running open workshops for individuals and in-house sessions for businesses looking to support employees with stiff necks, bad backs, frozen shoulders etc. The sessions include movement, stretches and breathing techniques designed to alleviate aches and pains.
Such little investment from employers and such a great gain by those employees you have who are suffering. To read some testimonials from previous attendees or find out more info about these sessions, visit our wellbeing sessions page.
And of course as well as supporting those with ongoing aches and pains, why not take a preventative approach and run a similar session to multiple staff to understand what they can do to stay healthy and prevent these aches and pains from emerging in the first place. At the very least we recommend a session on how to manage ‘zoom’ tired eyes.
Sleep and Tiredness
Again an intervention here does not have to be complex. You might even get a group together of people struggling with sleep to share with each other in a safe environment how they are feeling and what they are doing to improve things.
Another intervention might be to review whether you need any email cut offs after the end of the working day. Have your staff started to blend day with night resulting in them not relaxing before sleep?
An overload of emails and communications generally, irrespective of time of day they are sent is also keeping brains too busy. What can you do across the business to reduce communications overload? Is it too drastic to cut off one channel of communication eg what’s app, slack, teams etc after a specific time of the day or even for a whole day? Get creative and see what you can do to support your staff calm their minds so they can sleep well.
Of course exercise is known to be crucial for good sleep. How about brining in a 3 month exercise challenge to get your staff out of their houses and flats and pounding the pavements? At Jaluch we use an app called Outwalk and we all have a million steps challenge, being able to see what each other is doing each day is a great way to be encouraging of each other. We even reward everyone with a bottle of something nice when they hit their million steps.
Exercise and Food
We have already talked about exercise, but let’s add food in too as a poor diet is known to increase anxiety, prevent good sleep, unbalance us mentally etc.
Its a tough one when all our staff are adults and we are tempted to act as parent or teacher when it comes to exercise or food. We never recommend you nanny or babysit your staff as they all can make their own choices, but setting up home cooking challenges, challenges around exercise, weight loss, reduced alcohol consumption, quitting smoking etc are all great challenges, many of which can be supported by apps for photo sharing, results sharing etc. These kind of challenges are great for engagement, morale, fun, social connectedness, support etc and of course people can opt out if that is just not their thing.
A survey just a few months ago found that 30% of us eat often just a bag of crisps for lunch. Another 33% of so turn to either chocolate or coffee for lunch on a regular basis. Perhaps as with the other interventions above, education is an important part of this too. Nothing too heavy but just gentle reminders and nudges about the importance of looking after ourselves when life is so tough.
And last but not least….Fun
How many of us have stopped watching or even reading the news many, many months ago? We prefer to be disconnected from all current events in order to protect our mental wellbeing with the endless cacophony of doom, gloom, threats, anger, conflict etc that we are subjected too through the media.
It is a little sad that the comedy we have on TV and in film is pretty limited with so much focus nowadays on sensitivities and appropriateness. Its is easier to find TV about murder and mayhem or endless people conflict than humour and comedy. However finding fun, whether through comedy or in other ways is important and there is plenty of research about the positive impact on mental wellbeing and physical health when we do laugh and enjoy ourselves.
There is a great intro and guide to why laughter is the best medicine. You might even want to share it with your staff. It includes some great tips on bringing more laughter and fun into your life too.
Here is just a little snippet from it…
Laughter relaxes the whole body. A good, hearty laugh relieves physical tension and stress, leaving your muscles relaxed for up to 45 minutes after.
Laughter boosts the immune system. Laughter decreases stress hormones and increases immune cells and infection-fighting antibodies, thus improving your resistance to disease.
Laughter triggers the release of endorphins, the body’s natural feel-good chemicals. Endorphins promote an overall sense of well-being and can even temporarily relieve pain.
Laughter protects the heart. Laughter improves the function of blood vessels and increases blood flow, which can help protect you against a heart attack and other cardiovascular problems.
Another intervention of course is that you identify those individuals who can bring in fun and laughter to your team meetings and give them floor space. Make what they do naturally and love to do a part of every meeting you have, to help us all rebalance. A financier might call this ‘squeezing your assets’ i.e. making the most of what you have! Assets of course referred to here are often businesses or buildings but in this case let’s apply it to people! Perhaps there are people in your team who have gone unnoticed before but right now, at this moment in time, might be the very people you need to raise morale and spirits!
It’s time to really value fun – not view it as a distraction from productivity or the task at hand but a critical and much needed part of our everyday working lives to help us all with our mental and physical wellbeing whilst the world around us is in a period of change and challenge.
Please don’t wait for staff to sign off long term with stress, or go off work with a bad back. A few interventions now with a really good focus on what the challenges are and a variety of appropriate support may well be the difference between those who are able to get back to feeling great in 2021 versus those who suffer the effects of these lock downs for years to come.
To book on one of our wellbeing sessions for those with existing aches, pains, stiff necks, frozen shoulders etc. visit our wellbeing open course page. To enquire about wellbeing sessions for staff generally, team building sessions run on line for your staff, or any other topics relating to managing your staff please do contact us.