Kelly Metcalf, Head of Diversity, Inclusion and Wellbeing at Fujitsu

In the wake of the coronavirus outbreak, HR leaders are having to ask themselves questions they’ve never had to before.

A key one being: “how do we address the blurred boundary between work and home life for our employees during Covid-19 restrictions?”

The reality is that lockdowns and restrictions have blurred that boundary, and merging one’s private life and working day can have a negative impact on an individual’s wellbeing.

In a recent report from the Mental Health Foundation and LinkedIn, more than half (54%) of HR leaders surveyed believed mental health issues such as stress, burnout, isolation and loneliness had increased among their workforce since Covid-19.

If employees exhibit any of the above traits, it is highly likely to have a knock-on impact on employee productivity.

But the CIPD revealed that organisations choosing to proactively support the health and wellbeing of their workforce can lead to much more positive results, most commonly by improving employee morale and engagement (44%), providing a healthier and more inclusive culture (35%) and lowering sickness absence (31%).

So, what should HR be doing to promote wellbeing whilst employees are working remotely?

Promoting wellbeing through inclusion

Many organisations today are responsible for delivering critical products and services – whether it’s a cyber security organisation, supermarket or a video hosting platform. However, without engaged employees – those who feel included and protected – productivity levels will dwindle. It’s therefore essential to put employee wellbeing front and centre of every strategy, particularly now when people’s wellbeing is challenged more than ever.

There is also a strong connection between wellbeing and inclusion: the more people feel included and able to be completely themselves at work, the likelier they are to experience positive wellbeing and produce better results.

Take employee diversity networks for example. These networks play a key role in championing the voices of diverse communities and helping to ensure that leaders and HR focus on the things that create an inclusive culture. Cultivating an environment where everyone can access the individual support, advice and networking opportunities to help them grow and succeed at work has a positive impact on employee wellbeing and in turn helps to ensure people exhibit more inclusive behaviours towards others.

Support on an individual level

Another priority for HR teams should be to ensure managers are able to support everyone across the organisation on an individual level. For instance, at Fujitsu, we hold regular line manager webcasts where around 500 UK people managers join to discuss how they can support individuals’ wellbeing and mental health and highlight examples of best practice.

A key theme of these is emphasising the importance of managers having regular check-ins with their employees. The focus here is on checking in with people on a personal level and not checking up on them.

Whilst there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach to supporting employees, it is only through quality interaction between each person and their manager, that we can ensure that every individual is treated as such and offered the right support for their circumstances.

Being open about mental health

As people feel the strain of the current situation – be it juggling multiple conflicting priorities, being worried about loved ones, health, safety, job security and the economic impact - all of this can take its toll on our mental health.

HR plays an important role in helping to create an environment in which employees feel comfortable to open up about their mental health. One approach we advocate within Fujitsu is encouraging leaders to talk openly about their own mental health at work.

When leaders share their own stories, it creates a ‘safe’ environment and inspires others to come forward to seek support when they need it. This also sets the context for sharing regular information about mental health and wellbeing, focused on topics such as loneliness, anxiety amidst social distancing and worries about ‘getting back to normal’. There is a wealth of content available free online that HR and Wellbeing leaders can draw on to use in employee webinars and communications.

Make work-life balance a priority

Employees have other commitments and responsibilities outside of work and organisations must foster a work environment where these are openly recognised. Flexible working practices are key to individuals maintaining a positive work-life balance and in helping sustain positive wellbeing when people have no choice but to juggle multiple priorities at the same time.

Back in March, Fujitsu introduced extra paid carers’ leave for those who needed it and encouraged even more flexible working to help people cope with the additional demands that school closures and the pandemic have placed on them.

Morgan McKinley’s 2019 working hours and flexible working research – published earlier this year – revealed that 43% of employees feel that there is improved staff wellbeing alongside flexible wellbeing and, as we now know, better wellbeing equates to better business results.

Stronger together

Under the current circumstances, the organisations that are genuinely inclusive and mindful of everyone’s individual circumstances will be the ones whose employees benefit from positive wellbeing. In turn, those same organisations will benefit from more positive commitment from their employees, as well as engagement and productivity.

For organisations of every size, it’s vital that they listen to and support employees as and when is needed. We need to be treating employees as individuals with their own particular set of circumstances if we are to understand them better and encourage positive wellbeing.

Kelly Metcalf, Head of Diversity, Inclusion and Wellbeing at Fujitsu

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