‘Up for Discussion’ – Reflections from the webinar series
Dr Julie Denning, Managing Director, W2W & Nicola Suckley, Director W2W
During the first phase of Lockdown, we ran weekly Q and A webinars with people from a variety of industry sectors and professions to discuss the challenges faced by organisations in helping to support and manage employee wellbeing during the Covid-19 pandemic.
We started our journey of dialogue with a broad focus on the mental and physical health of employees whilst going through Lockdown. W2W drew on newly evolving data from the IES and ONS, showing that during this period, employees were reporting increased physical and mental health difficulties.
During our conversations, we identified a number of core themes that were key at week 8 of Lockdown, that we feel are still relevant now. As we approach the next phase and we embark on the process of increasing social contact, we wanted to share these themes and keep the conversation going.
New Working Normal
It is important to survey, monitor and evaluate employee opinion, experience and productivity during these challenging times. The aim is to understand what practices have been beneficial to employee wellbeing and what haven’t, so that organisations can continue with them as restrictions become lifted and a ‘new working normal’ is created. They may also become useful should a second lockdown be implemented. As evidenced from organisational change literature, employee engagement is key to any changes introduced.
Support Line Managers
We already know that line managers play a key role in supporting employee’s mental and physical health, and according to IES studies this was further confirmed during the coronavirus lockdown. In such unprecedented times, supportive, engaged, empathic line managers have played a significant role in improving the quality of life of their employees while adjusting to their new circumstances. Continued support for line managers needs to be implemented by their employers to ensure that they have the tools they require to have such positive contact with their staff.
Wellbeing Action Plan
There are tools that can be easily adapted to facilitate discussions regarding employee mental and physical health, a key one being a Wellbeing Action Plan. MIND created a Wellbeing Action Plan for mental ill-health that can be adjusted easily for all health and wellbeing needs. This provides a template for good conversations and practical problem solving and support. Rather than a one size fits all approach to line management, this creates a personalised 1:1 dialogue where needs are met, and there is shared understanding.
Engaged Employees & Organisations
Successful navigation of such unchartered waters requires engagement by both employee and organisation. It cannot be left to one or the other if both business and individual are to remain healthy. The notion of choice and deliberate action were discussed and considered in the context of organisational development and employee satisfaction.
Time for change
This may now be a time for organisations to make radical changes to their business operations and at the same time to reflect on their corporate values and mission. There could be space for significant innovation, new ways of working and healthier bottom lines as a result. Organisations need to be brave and take the leap, ensuring they take their staff along with them in their development. Such change could take the form of a new or adjusted wellbeing strategy, new or adjusted HR policies around working practices, health and wellbeing, working environment and what works for whom and a shift in culture.
What started as a one-off event with questions for us, has naturally evolved into a forum where all attendees speak as experts, sharing knowledge and helping each other where they can. As we enter the next phase of Lockdown, there are fewer unknowns. However, we feel that during these uncertain times, more questions will arise as we all adjust to our ‘new working normal’. W2W encourage ongoing discussion and sharing of best practice. We are still here to answer any questions you might have, so please do not hesitate to get in touch.
We are keen to talk to employers who have examples of best practise and who are willing to share their knowledge in a similar Q and A format. If you would be interested in taking part in an interactive webinar series, please do contact us. We want to keep the conversation going.
Thanks and stay safe.
Dr Julie Denning and Nicola Suckley
Our specialist clinicians are highly trained to provide a truly integrated service that results in health behaviour change and optimum work capability.