Health and WellbeingCOVID-19: The role of mental wellbeing strategy during a crisis

COVID-19: The role of mental wellbeing strategy during a crisis

As businesses are slowly returning back to work and preparing to “bounce back” as the lockdown period eases, a motivated and resilient workforce will be more important than ever. To commemorate Mental Health Awareness Week 2020, Anji McGrandles examines the importance of a mental wellbeing strategy during a crisis.

The coronavirus pandemic has likely created the greatest mental health challenge any of us will face in our lifetime. 56% of UK adults have said their mental health has deteriorated since lockdown began and mental health apps have been downloaded more than one million times since the start of the crisis.  From a workplace perspective it will probably change the way we work going forward with businesses offering more flexibility and home working.

Why is a wellbeing strategy crucial right now?

Because we are all facing our own unique challenges, whether it’s juggling home schooling and work, financial and job security worries, fear of a second wave of the virus or loss of a loved one, its key that going back to work, employees have the right mental health tools to deal with the next phase of this pandemic and beyond.  Having a workplace wellbeing strategy during a crisis is not a ‘nice to have’, it is essential.  Your staff will be more vulnerable, the pressure of the last few months will have had an effect on their mental and emotional health.  Like any other business activity, an effective wellbeing programme requires a succinct strategy. Who do you want to help? What do you want to achieve? How will you know if you’ve achieved it? These simple questions should be at the heart of your strategy. Not only will a bulletproof strategy give you a clear action plan, it will also help you to get the necessary buy-in you need from key decision makers.

Having a wellbeing strategy in place will help you deliver the right tone of voice and communications to ensure employees feel supported and safe and combined with training, give them the strategies they need to deal with challenges and tough days, and there is no doubt there will be tough days ahead. How businesses respond will have a lasting impact on employee behaviour, including, engagement, productivity and loyalty.

Introduce or adapt your wellbeing strategy

While business leaders are developing plans to regrow and elevate out of these difficult times, remember you need to have a productive, mentally agile team with the right energy to help you do this.  Investing in your team’s wellbeing will support this.   If you already have a wellbeing programme in place look at how you can adapt this to be more effective and relevant, for example can your wellbeing provider deliver a series of online workshops or can you create content to address mental health concerns around this new way of working.  Review your wellbeing programme and make changes to deliver initiatives that have measurable KPIs and will make an impact.

If you are currently offering gym memberships can you take this budget and redirect it to resilience training which might be more effective under the current circumstances.  Self-isolation has caused us to lose that connectedness with each other so build into your programme practices that promote positive connections with colleagues.

Now is good time to take a temperature check across the business to get a better understanding of how people are feeling about returning to work, their concerns and stressors. A wellbeing audit will help you proactively take action so your people can be happier, healthier, and more productive. By consulting with people now, you will get greater buy-in on any initiatives or new ways of working.  This data will also give you an insight into how people are feeling mentally and emotionally, and you can then use this to inform your wellbeing strategy.

Fear and uncertainty are heightened during periods of high pressure and stress so it is important to have a plan and information available around how you are making the work environment safe and ensuring staff wellbeing is paramount.  Make sure your communications are calm, confident, and clear.  Consider how your employees might be adapting to this new norm and give them the mental first aid kit they need to help them face these challenges.

Training is key to wellbeing

Build your strategy around training.  Equipping teams with skills and techniques that will up level their wellbeing will be beneficial right now. Some training topics to consider are time management strategies while working from home, stress management, emotional intelligence, resilience, effective communication, employee engagement, practicing proper health and wellness and positivity in the workplace.

A recent survey by LinkedIn revealed UK adults are working an average of 28 hours a month more since being required to work from home due to the lockdown.  Lethargic, burnt out staff won’t feel motivated or energised so encourage your team to take annual leave, switch off on an evening and implement wellbeing practices like regular exercise, meditation and mindfulness.

While we are going through these changes and acclimatising to a different way of working, it can be easy to lose your sense of culture.  Align your wellbeing strategy to your overall business strategy and ensure your programme reflects your values and culture. However you build staff wellbeing into your business plan, strike the right balance between coming back strong and being empathetic.


Anji McGrandles is the founder of workplace wellbeing consultancy, The Mind Tribe.  For support on your workplace wellbeing strategy and training please contact [email protected]

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