Having our people “happy, healthy and here” will have a positive effect on them as individuals, on our colleagues and customers, and on the business as a whole. A happy and healthy employee is more likely to be engaged in the Company’s purpose and values, which means that this will be reflected in their performance and behaviours.
There’s obviously a lot of focus particularly on the mental wellbeing of employees at the moment, given that it’s mental health awareness week and we’re only just starting to emerge, tentatively, from the massive impact of Covid-19.
I’ve been hearing a lot about employers introducing all manner of initiatives over the last few months with the aim of engaging with and supporting their staff, especially those who are working from home or still on furlough. Ideas have ranged from holding Zoom Bingo sessions and online yoga or cookery classes, to inviting alpacas to attend virtual team meetings! These are all great and have opened the door for more creative ways of spending time and having fun with colleagues, and will hopefully long outlive the virus.
But I’m also hearing that people are now suffering from virtual meeting fatigue. If they’re feeling low or not in good form on any particular day, they say they have to “put on a happy mask” before they go on-screen, especially in group settings where there’s almost a pressure to perform in front of peers and management.
Whilst the group initiatives have been greatly appreciated by many, particularly during the earlier months of the pandemic, they’re not suited to everyone and even those who are more comfortable in group situations are finding it difficult to maintain unlimited enthusiasm.
But what do people really need as our working lives continue to be disrupted for the foreseeable future? The answer is quite simple: they need to have access to meaningful one-to one conversations with their colleagues and management. They need to feel that they’re being listened to and cared about as individual. Group events certainly serve a purpose but sometimes all we need is for someone to say, “How are you?” and be genuinely interested in the answer, whether it’s work-related, personal or something else.
So, in between your online music quiz and cocktail making class (I have to admit, I really enjoyed that one!), make the effort to connect with someone on an individual basis; ask them if they’d like a virtual brew with you and spend ten minutes together just talking, about anything… Everyone can find some time during the day to make that call, and you might even find that you benefit from it too.
If you’d like more support in holding one-to-one conversations with your people, especially in relation to sensitive or difficult issues, we’ve produced a free People Managers Guide to Talking Mental Health which can be downloaded from: https://guardian.online/hold-on/ (while you’re there, you can also access a recording of our webinar held in February with mental health experts Red Umbrella, which focused on supporting the mental health of your people post-lockdown). Don’t say we never give you anything!