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Compared to the adrenaline-fueled first wave, our new normal requires a different approach altogether. In March 2020, we relied heavily on the psychological emergency response called arousal. Sudden shock and uncertainty resulted in adrenaline surges and fighting spirit behaviours, which are characteristically impulsive. 2021 requires a whole new response; psychological stamina. These are more deep-rooted emotional reactions which are individual and information based. The third wave (is it 3? I’ve lost track) is boring, frustrating and not at all new. We now require perseverance, endurance and defiance against the gloom of the pandemic.

When writing for Harvard Business Review, Dr Merete Wedell-Wedellsborg, Business Psychologist, said:

“At this point in the crisis, the conditions that breed depression, loneliness and anxiety are present: working in isolation, health concerns, job security, heavy workloads and rapidly shifting priorities.”

Business leaders need to take mental health seriously and provide a supportive environment sooner rather than later. Gone are the days of table tennis challenges or Friday lunchtime cocktails to keep spirit; managers need to learn how to keep a well balanced remote team motivated and healthy. Here are a few approaches in our current world that can be employed by anyone:

Appreciate, Recognise & Award

When we asked experts across the UK what support they’d like to see from their employer, 41% used the words “appreciate”, “recognise” or “award” at least once. While many businesses did reward their employees with quarterly events and other team-building initiatives, the traditional methods are temporarily unavailable.

While an end date may have been set for social distancing, there’s still a few months between then and now. Business leaders need to continue recognising, appreciating and awarding the efforts employees are showcasing.

Create a safe environment for mental health discussion

According to a MIND report, 60% of adults and 68% of young people have said their mental health has got worse during the lockdown. This clearly shows many people within the workforce are struggling more than usual, meaning business leaders have had to make mental health awareness a priority.

Whether it’s communicating who the mental health first aiders are within the business, providing training or making the details of third parties who can help available, companies need to ensure employees can talk about their struggles openly.

Mind Mental Health Charity

Phone: 0300 123 3393

Text: 86463

Email: info@mind.org.uk

Samaritans – Mental Health Helpline

Phone: 116 123

Email: jo@samaritans.org

Emma Dredge – Mental Health First Aid Training

Website: www.emmadcoaching.com

Email: emma@projectawesomelife.com

Phone: 07792804409

Equip people to help struggling colleagues

Providing a place for discussion is just the first step. For your employees to truly look out for each other, they need to be able to recognise the signs. Some symptoms to look out for include:

  • Tiredness

  • Increased irritability

  • Increasing forgetfulness

  • Loss of confidence

  • Increased indecision

  • A sense they are struggling to perform their normal tasks.

While we will all experience these occasionally, an obvious or sustained change in any of these should result in a conversation at least.

Create employee-led forums

While it’s important for leadership teams to be approachable and relatable, giving employees space where they can talk openly and freely about the topics affecting them is also important. The result in proper implementation can help build a culture of trust between employers and employees, improving communication along the way.

By creating these forums, leaders can encourage people to talk about any problems they’re facing while also cutting down on feelings of isolation that can arise from working from home.

Encourage an environment of competence

Make your teams know they are good enough, they earned their place and their worth goes beyond their function. Use specific examples to highlight individual contributions and successes, recognise who they are as a person and both will result in reduced anxiety and misperception.

Encourage self-care

Supporting physical health is a known method of improving mental health. Encouraging employees to take walks or other forms of exercise to boost physical activity ensures they’re not suffering from sitting in front of their laptops all day.

At Search, we’ve started weekly Search Connect Events which include:

  • Motivational Monday – A group virtual system support

  • Wellness Wednesday – Including physical activities such as HIIT classes

  • Feel Good Fridays – Group events such as cocktail making

While there is no expectation placed upon people to attend, these all take place within the working day, bringing people together to ensure they recognise how much the business appreciates their hard work.

While the end of lockdown does appear just around the corner, the Government’s roadmap is tentative and could change at any moment. While employees may soon be allowed to leave the spare bedroom and return to the boardroom, there’s still work to be done. 2021’s lockdown has been filled with fatigue and frustration, so making sure your business has a positive working environment is crucial for your team’s employees.

At Search, we’ve been working within the HR sector for over 25 years. During this time, we’ve seen the industry change to match new demands and employee needs. So, if you’re an HR expert looking for your next challenge, or you need to bolster your team of experts, I am here to help. To take the next step, get in touch today.

About the author

My name is Jessie Swinfield. I am a nomad, a third culture kid with a totally cute (but often overbearing) obsession with my dog, Frank. I have worked in the HR recruitment world for 5 years now and I really can’t imagine doing anything else.

I love writing about the HR market in my spare time and on top of the day job because I have a real passion and interest in the subject.

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