Making time for Mindfulness
Mental Health Awareness advice from Amy Tomlinson, Head of HR, MetLife UK
With Covid-19 causing widespread uncertainty and apprehension, Mental Health Awareness Week is a good opportunity for business leaders to consider the additional steps they can take to support their workforce.
As circumstances evolve, many companies are starting to make plans for an eventual return to the office. As business leaders develop and communicate these plans, employees’ mental and physical wellbeing must remain at the forefront. With many office workers working at home for the time being, considering ways to continue to support the wellbeing of remote-working staff and encourage healthy home-working practices is also key. At MetLife in the UK, we have adapted our wellbeing programme to support during the current climate, including online support.
Businesses that prioritise the wellbeing of their people during this turbulent period will help to foster a more positive company culture, strengthening employee loyalty.
So, what can you do to support your workforce?
Review your company’s wellness programme
At this time of high anxiety, having a robust health and wellbeing strategy in place is crucial. Companies have had to figure out ways of adapting their existing employee support services to work over the phone or online and what additional sources of help they may need to offer to their employees during these times. It’s important to give your employees regular reminders of how they can access this support if they need to.
At MetLife in the UK, we are continually looking for ways to improve our wellbeing offering, with a focus on physical, mental and financial wellness support for our employees. This has included training a team of mental health first aiders and running a variety of mental health awareness courses for our managers. Since the switch to remote working, we’ve reviewed our programme to offer additional support to help our employees adjust to this new way of working. This included easing the transition to home working with a Home Working mentors scheme, designed to pair up previously home-based colleagues with those that were new to it, offering top tips to make the experience as stress free as possible.
Schedule time for mindfulness
With home working raising new challenges and many adjusting to a new routine at home, self-care can quickly fall to the bottom of the agenda. Encouraging staff to take breaks and time out of their day to disconnect from work and reconnect with their surroundings has been shown to have excellent benefits in improving mental health and productivity.
We run daily mindfulness sessions and weekly yoga classes for staff and their families, which have had great engagement. These sessions can be attended live via webcasts but are also recorded to allow staff to fit them around their schedules. For tips to help your workers incorporate mindfulness into their daily routine, see our blog post on the topic.
Make your employees feel heard
Clear communication should be at the heart of every company’s wellness strategy, but this has been even more crucial in navigating large-scale remote working. Let your employees know that you are putting their wellbeing first by asking for regular feedback on what they are finding difficult and how you can help. Holding weekly virtual all staff meetings is a good way to keep your workers informed and monitor collective wellbeing. Bear in mind, however, that some people may find video-meetings particularly difficult, which may induce anxiety, so try to adapt communication channels to make sure that even those who don’t speak up can be heard. At MetLife, our trained mental health first aiders are a huge asset to identifying those employees who are finding things challenging. Someone’s state of mind can change very quickly so it’s important to monitor this.
Although work schedules may be particularly busy at the moment, with around a third of employees reported as experiencing loneliness, companies have recognised the importance of factoring in time for socialising. The team at MetLife have tried to tackle this feeling of isolation by launching a programme of virtual coffee catch-ups. By giving each meeting a different theme, such as working parents, we aimed to give staff the opportunity to discuss mutual experiences of working from home. It can be difficult to strike the right balance between under and over communication, but optional social meetings such as these have proven to be valuable in keeping workforce’s feeling connected and supported.
The global effects of Covid-19 are a reminder that health and wellbeing should be at the top of the agenda for business leaders. Dedicating time to support your workers will not only help you to get the best out of your workforce, but open the door to the employees you want to welcome in the future. Your people are the key to your business: look after them.