Keeping mental health and well-being a priority 

May, 2022 - Shoosmiths LLP

Recent reports indicate that mental health and well-being have dropped back down the business agenda, despite levels of workplace stress remaining high in the wake of the pandemic.


A recent report by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) found that many employers are failing to keep mental health and well-being at the forefront of their business agenda despite the lingering impact of the pandemic. It is crucial that organisations do not become complacent just because lockdown and COVID-19 restrictions appear to be a thing of the past.


Prioritising employee well-being must remain a non-negotiable, not just something that’s ‘nice to have’. In turn, this will boost employee efficiency and ensure that staff are less inclined to move organisations to somewhere they feel more valued.


The CIPD found that the number of HR professionals who think that well-being is being prioritised has fallen by 5% in the past year. The survey also reports that there has been a decrease in senior management who have bought into the importance of well-being – with this dropping from 67% in 2021 to 60% in 2022.


Yet, 66% of those surveyed also said that they were concerned about the lasting impact of the pandemic on employees’ mental health and, further still, 24% reported that COVID-19 was one of the main causes of ongoing workplace stress. Whilst it may seem that we have ridden out the wave of the pandemic, the rippling after-effects are still being felt by many - whether this be in the form of long-Covid, financial uncertainty or having to live with the grief of losing a loved one to COVID-19.


According to the Office of National Statistics, an estimated 1.8 million people in the UK are experiencing long-Covid symptoms, demonstrating that this is a widespread problem and bound to affect a considerable proportion of the workforce.


As a result, it is important not to forget the lessons learnt during the height of the pandemic regarding the importance of employee well-being. It is easy to slip back into bad habits and resume pre-pandemic practices, but the momentum gained in this area should not be lost. It is well-known that happy employees perform better and that well-being is key to organisational resilience and staff loyalty.


With current staff shortages, many organisations cannot afford to take a ‘business as usual’ approach and scale back on the support that they give to their employees. This attitude will not only create a burnt-out workforce, but also risks prompting staff to vote with their feet and take their skills elsewhere.


To ensure that they consistently keep mental health and well-being a priority, employers should:


  • engage in regular check ins and communication with employees, not only in relation to their professional workloads, but also regarding any personal pressures that may be impacting staff performance;
  • create a safe space for discussion and encourage employees to reach out when they are struggling;
  • listen to staff suggestions so that the organisation can understand and alleviate workplace stressors where possible;
  • encourage senior staff to lead by example and prioritise mental well-being;
  • remain mindful when setting deadlines and ensure that any targets are realistic and achievable; and
  • set up a network of mental health and well-being champions to provide a support system for staff and to raise awareness about mental health in the workplace.

We are all used to hearing about the ‘new normal’, but employers must ensure that their new norm consistently includes a genuine focus on the mental health and well-being of employees. Failing to do so risks creating damaging consequences for both organisations and their staff members.


 



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