Wellbeing in the 'new normal'

By Beth McMaw Considine, CIPD Northern Ireland Branch Chair.

As we settle into autumn, with cooler temperatures, shorter days and increasing COVID-19 related restrictions, I’d like to share with you, our members, some reflections on “wellbeing in the new normal” and hopefully offer some areas for review and consideration.

First and foremost, it’s worth bearing in mind that whilst my focus leans more on mental wellbeing, wellbeing is not just about mental health. The World Health Organisation defines it as “a state of complete physical, mental and social wellbeing and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity”.

Sickness and absence levels have fallen to an all-time low, 5.8 days per employee. (CIPD, 2020). The initial reaction to this might be positive in terms of productivity and reduced cost, however, it’s important to dig a bit deeper and get underneath this figure and think about the term ‘presenteeism’ particularly as so many are working from home. This is where the role of the Line Manager becomes critical and further development should be provided to those with direct line management responsibilities.

Technology has enabled almost all of us to not only continue working but it has kept families and communities connected as well as the education sector, through the unprecedented times we have and continue to live through. But we’ve also got to be mindful of the impact of too much screen time on our wellbeing and again the level of “digital presenteeism”.

So as People Professionals, what should we be aware of and what should we be encouraging:

  • Communicate regularly on a one to one basis as well as by delivering organisation-wide advice, guidance, and updates through live streams, internal sites and email. This will help to reduce the feeling of uncertainty and will increase engagement.
  • Support employees by ensuring they have the right equipment if they are working from home and if they are in the workplace ensuring it is safe and compliant with the up to date government guidelines. If you have an employee assistance provider (EAP) make sure you are utilising the benefits and ensure employees are aware of it.
  • Listen to your employees and give them the opportunity to voice how they are feeling through regular touchpoints and surveys. This will help you measure the impact which may result in continuing with what is already in place, changing or adding to your approach.
  • Encourage virtual socials and physical exercise; this can be as simple as a 15-minute coffee check that you would normally have at a break-out area, challenging individuals to go for a walk or running virtual yoga, baking or cooking sessions.
  • Don’t assume that people are OK; everyone will have different fears, worries and degrees of resilience. Look out for the warning signs; working irregular hours, long hours, keeping their camera off during virtual meetings, a change in behaviour.

‘Promoting and supporting employee wellbeing is at the heart of CIPD’s purpose to champion better work and working lives because an effective workplace wellbeing programme can deliver mutual benefit to people, organisations, economies and communities.’

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