By Jeff Dewing CEO of Cloudfm and No1. best-selling business author and podcaster
The world has been through some crazy times recently. COVID, Russia’s war with Ukraine as well as the added stress of energy prices and living costs going up. People are naturally anxious and distracted, they are worried about the future. A recent study by Health and Safety Executive (HSE) shows that 822,000 workers were suffering from work-related stress, depression, or anxiety. These can have a huge impact on employees’ well-being and subsequently a knock-on effect on work performances if left unaddressed. Guiding your staff through challenging times and looking after their mental health requires actions and change, not blank policies. Here are a few ways to nurture employee’s wellbeing and keep them engaged:
Let’s get personal
First and foremost, know your workforce. You need to build rapport otherwise they simply won’t feel comfortable speaking with you, and you can’t help if you don’t know there is a problem. Work shouldn’t all be transactional. Get to know your employees on a personal level. Listen to them – what are their kids’ names? How many pets do they have? What are their passions and hobbies? What do they like to do outside of work? It might seem insignificant but it’s important. This will not only open a deeper level of communication and transparency between you, but it can provide insight into how to better inspire and drive them.
Statistically, one-third of our lives are spent at work. This can mean you spend more time being around your colleagues and employees than you might get to spend with friends and family members. Nonetheless, many people still hold back from being their authentic selves due to not feeling entirely comfortable or safe, which demonstrates its quality over quantity when it comes to human bonds and connections. It’s not about how long you’ve known them, but how well.
Promote a safe work culture
“Leave your problems at the doorstep”. This old-fashioned view needs to be thrown out the window. People can’t simply turn off a switch, the truth is our life comes with us to work even if we don’t show it and vice versa. Actions speak louder than words. Therefore, in times like this, when everyone’s anxiety levels are at an all-time high, it is important to normalise conversations around mental health to help break the stigma in the workplace. Even better help staff tackle these issues head-on by offering mental health training programmes. We personally have implemented various programmes and ensure we send monthly company-wide reminders that there are 24-hour mental care lines to call for help when it feels like it’s getting too much. Showing your employees that there is nothing to be ashamed of, we all have problems to face and they are not alone is paramount. Creating a safe work culture reassures employees, allowing them to be open and honest which enables you to support them best.
Get up and walk
Being stuck indoors all day does nobody any good. Increased physical activities and fresh air are proven to impact us positively. Therefore, encouraging employees to implement healthy habits such as going on regular walks can only be a good thing. We encourage staff where they can to change up their environment – take your meeting on a walk or at a coffee shop etc.
Lead by example. Small behavioural changes from management down can create a domino effect. Looking after your well-being and letting others know it’s important to put their health first makes a big difference, it can alleviate fear knowing they don’t have to answer to anybody. It’s especially important when employees are working from home to reiterate the importance of regular breaks. The absence of prompts that you might otherwise see in an office (for example others taking their lunch break) could result in some employees going for 8 hours without leaving their desks, or even worse not leaving their house for days. A combination of freedom through flexible lunch/work hours and actively encouraging a change of scenery may be exactly what they need to better their wellbeing. This not only helps put them in a better mood, but it can boost their productivity too. We must realise that autonomy breeds loyalty and commitment and goes hand in hand with job fulfilment. By offering a healthy work environment to your employees, you can guarantee that this will be reciprocated in the amount of effort they put into their work.
Building resilience & focus
At Cloudfm the two things that drive our employees’ year are:
1) The 5 strands of resilience – emotional, social, physical, mental, and spiritual state. Each month, I like to get everyone to write down how they are going to maintain those five things and share them with their colleagues. That way, peers in the same group can help each other achieve those goals and make sure that they are on the right track.
2) Ambition document – a nice simple tool to motivate my employees by giving them focus. At the start of the year staff write objectives as if they’ve already achieved it instead of just trying to. It looks at their personal life and them as a leader, drilling down on what success looks like on an individual level. It covers what you’re going to do this year and then three things that measure success. The key point is, it is of no use to you if you write it on the first of January and then don’t look at it until 31st December, it’s about regularly reviewing it.
Professional and personal development are both equally powerful. They provide the opportunity for staff to recognise and reflect on their achievements helping drive them.
Sooner than later
Having a conversation once or twice a year with employees is not enough to truly help them. Reviews are too formal and just aren’t agile enough. I don’t want to wait until the end of the year to find out that someone’s upset. I’d rather fix the issue as soon as possible. Leaders and management teams need to be present and available to help them along their journeys, keeping them motivated. To me, having frequent meaningful, conversations means so much more than filling out a form that may not be 100% honest. That’s why we have monthly informal check-ins talking about work, personal things and aspirations. It can be with anyone in the company and can even be in the pub over a pint, it just needs to be done and has become a ritual. This means we can then meet the demands quickly if anything comes up. It’s important to constantly be there for employees and not only at times of stress, nurturing them at every opportunity. Prevention is better than cure – it’s always better to address these issues before things deteriorate.
Ultimately, putting people before profit is not only the morally right thing to do as a decent human being but it simply makes business sense. It benefits you more than them as you can get the most out of employees when they are happy and have life sorted.