Employee Mental Health & Wellbeing – what’s your plan for 2022?

To say the last two years (2020 & 2021), have been incredible, overwhelming, and challenging would be the understatement of the decade!

For a moment, think about what we’ve had to face, absorb and endure

  • A global health crisis that has resulted in millions of deaths
  • Country borders shutting down including our own and interstate borders
  • Being forced to stay and work from home
  • Schooling your younger kids from home
  • Living in a household where each of you are in each other’s face 24/7
  • Restricted movement
  • Loss of physical contact with family & friends
  • Unable to visit elderly parents, who may be living on their own or in aged care facilities
  • Having to postpone medical procedures

The list could on – the point being, we’ve all had to cope with a lot of mental stress and strain which, will have a negative flow on effect on our mental health.

Living through the pandemic & lockdowns, has been a challenge for everyone, however, returning to work, in some form, is the next challenge.

As employees ‘return’, they can’t mentally switch to business as usual, and simply shake off what they’ve been through.

There will be countless people who are going to need mental health support in their workplace, whether it’s in the office or still the kitchen table.

In 2022, successful businesses will be those that understand that poor mental health in their workforce means poor productivity.

They know that the effects of the pandemic are likely to be with us for a long time.

They also know they have a duty of care towards their workers, so they will prioritise support for their mental health.

A recent study by Bupa in the UK showed that almost 30% of businesses are prioritising employee mental health above all else.

Additionally, the pandemic induced lockdown periods are driving the phenomenon of The Great Resignation, where good/talented employees are leaving their workplaces in droves, leaving businesses short staffed and unable to fulfill vacant positions.

And these employees are leaving because of burnout, exhaustion and a feeling of being under appreciated. The Great Resignation

For larger businesses who can afford it, this may mean additional specialist support personnel to work with their employees to help adjust and navigate the ‘new world’ paradigm.

However, for most businesses that are small-medium, they most likely don’t have such a luxury.

 What makes mental health wellness challenging?

Physical OHS issues in the workplace, such as fall/trip hazards, danger of electrocution, working in confined spaces, working in toxic environments etc, can be eliminated or mitigated through physical practices – e.g., engineering solutions, training / education, safety equipment etc.

However, when it comes to dealing with mental health & wellbeing, we are now dealing with the human mind, rather than an external safety threat – which needs an approach many businesses will not be prepared for.

This new approach must start with the leaders of the business, regardless of their size.

5 skills needed to promote positive mental health & wellbeing

As mentioned before, change starts at the top – with the CEO – and in this case it’s not the title Chief Executive Officer, rather the other role that she/he needs to assume – Chief Empathy Officer.

In the past, the following 5 skills may have been once deemed as ‘soft-skills’, however, these are now MUST have skills, not just for the CEO – rather each and everyone in the business.

These skills are.

Integrity – doing the right thing and demonstrating it – rather than saying one thing and doing the opposite.

Listening – genuinely listening, probing to understand, and acknowledging – rather than merely nodding your head and trying to get through a conversation as quickly as you can.

Motivating others – the job of uplifting each one of us is not just that of managers – rather a collective effort, when we all motivate each other, we feel part of the team and not just an employee.

Empathy – this simply means understanding each one of us goes through our own journey, we all have our own definition of success, challenge, and loss – this is not the time to judge.

Trustworthiness – simply put, what you say you will do, you will do, and it means someone who is facing a challenging time is ready and willing to speak with you without any fear.

If we, as business thought we’ve been through a challenging time, I feel we’re about to go through a different phase when it comes to our most valued resource – our people.

Those businesses who rise to this challenge quickly and with integrity, will be the ones who will do so with the least disruption.

Workplace mental health and wellbeing will be an even more critical issue in the years to come – how prepared is your business to address these issues successfully and meaningfully?

For assistance and further information please contact Safety Services Australia (02) 9634 5912 or info@safetyservices.net.au.