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HRD Thought Leaders on mental health and wellbeing in 2020

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Gathering perspectives on one of the most pressing issues faced by leaders this year.

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In this special end-of-year series, our panel of renowned HR experts and influencers dissect some of the most pressing issues brought to light by the events of 2020. In this edition, mental health and wellbeing goes under the microscope.

2020 has been a revolutionary year for HR. From strategic overhauls to technological transformation, additional visibility plus new demands for support, leaders in every sector have experienced significant change, with progress only set to continue in the time ahead. That said, not every leader has had an identical experience; regional differences, organizational culture and employee needs are all variable factors, meaning that each leader essentially has a tailored set of challenges and opportunities to respond to.

To that end, learning from peers, picking up actionable tips and discovering first-hand experiences are vital to refining strategies for 2021.

Debra Corey

Author, speaker and employee engagement expert – @DebraCoreyRebel

Wellbeing has very quickly moved to the top of the priority list for most companies, reflecting the need to support employees during and through these challenging times. Whether it’s openly and honestly talking about it, putting in place new programmes to support it in a more holistic manner, or adapting existing programmes to give employees the freedom and flexibility to support their individual needs, companies are investing time and money into wellbeing.

Going forward, I believe that companies will continue to have a focus on wellbeing, keeping an eye on how the needs are changing and how products in the marketplace are evolving to support them going forward.

Heidi Lynn Kurter

Leadership expert, workplace culture consultant and Forbes senior contributor – @HeidiLynneCo

Prior to COVID-19, companies neglected the realness of employee mental health and wellbeing. While many employers invested in an Employee Assistance Program (EAP), they failed to bring awareness to what mental health and wellness is and how it impacts everyone differently. This became increasingly difficult to ignore as the pandemic surged in the United States and continued to spread across the world.

As individuals faced their own traumas from losing someone close to them, them worried about losing their job, struggling to survive financially with a spouse now out of work, being stuck quarantined with an abuser, and having to come to terms with their own fears around the economic, social and political climate, their mental health was inevitably impacted in one way or another.

In 2021, we’ll see more companies incorporating empathetic leadership practices into how they operate. For example, managers will be trained on how to conduct one on one’s and strongly encouraged to conduct mental health check-in’s with their employees. Human Resources will introduce more flexible working schedules to accommodate parents with children who are also at home.

Additionally, benefit packages will be modified to focus more on employee mental health such as incorporating or strengthening an EAP, encouraging more walks during the workday, providing meditation, yoga or stretching classes, remote work stipends to improve the comfortability of one’s working area, access to mental health apps and resources as well as counseling options.

Janine Dennis

Chief Innovation Officer, Talent Think Innovations – @MzJanineNicole

2020 put mental health on the radar of the business world in an inescapable way. Prior to this year, mental health and wellness was a perk and/or spoken of under the guise of Employee Assistance Programs (EAP) rather than the independent variables and focus areas that they are.

With uncertainty of how this pandemic will continue to trend globally looming as well as a continued push for a blended working environment that is now permeating employees’ homes; businesses will have to find practical, timely, and inclusive ways to ensure that people feel balanced, aligned, and supported day-to-day. 2021 is a good time to take a holistic look at the employee by seeing them as a human first and a means to the organization’s bottom-line last.

There are now mounting internal and external pressures that can make or break the temperament of your employees without warning. Empathetic employers will do well to see that their wellness strategy for the upcoming year includes providing access to mental health resources, training leadership on how to improve work conditions and addressing requests surrounding mental health concerns; as well as finding ways to connect people in meaningful ways while working at a distance.

Terence Mauri

Global disruption thinker, author and speaker – @TerenceMauri

The global pandemic has turned peoples’ working lives upside down and for many has led to feelings of being overloaded and overwhelmed by back to back Zoom meetings. According to a recent global survey by Hack Future Lab 89 percent of workers say they struggle to focus on what really matters and multi-tasking eats 40% of your day. The Japanese have a saying for this – Karoshi that literally means ‘death from overwork’.

Our wellbeing and mental health is under attack. Information overload, digital distractions and the cult of accessibility mean that for many of us the default setting is ‘always on’. The World Health Organisation has declared “burnout” to be an occupational phenomenon that undermines how well people perform at work. For HR and business leaders, conversations about our collective future — and its impact on our health, wealth and well-being dominate the airwaves.

How equipped are we to embrace permanent remote working? What are leaders doing to improve mental health and wellbeing outcomes for those impacted by the COVID-19 crisis? In 2021 and beyond we’ll see a long-overdue acceleration of organisations caring about employee well-being from the day they start to the day they finish Thriving employees defined as flourising in terms of wellbeing, mental health and career — are three times more likely to work for a company that they perceive as caring.

A key takeaway: People want to feel more alive at work. Personalised well-being programmes will become the norm for workers. HR and business leaders who overlook this critical trend line will ultimately erode their workforce capability and lose out on the war for talent.

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