Mark Allen, BUPA, and Andy Wolfe, Boyden UK Partner and leadership expert, provide key takeaways from Boyden UK's Human Resources virtual event
We recently invited Senior HR Leaders to a virtual round table event to discuss building and maintaining wellbeing and resilience in the workplace. We were delighted that Mark Allan from BUPA and a member of the Business in the Community Wellbeing Leadership Team, and Andy Wolfe from Boyden’s Leadership Practice were able to give some of their insights before a more general conversation occurred.
Mark discussed the results of BUPA’s recent mental health at work survey and pointed to some of their key findings from the Covid crisis – 41% of employees experienced poor mental health caused by work (up from 39% in 2019) and 54% of employees have cited poor mental health due to causes outside of work (up from 51% in 2019). Of the causes of poor mental health where work was a contributory factor 51% cited that it was due to pressure; 54% of women are more likely to list pressure as a key factor (compared to 48% of men) and 35% stated it was due to workload, long hours and lack of annual leave. However the positive news was that the number of employees who felt that their organisation supports their mental health is on the rise from 55% in 2019 to 64% in 2020.
Andy talked through the traits that leaders need to use to build resilience both for themselves and for their employees.
Everyone has mental health – just as everyone has physical health, sometimes it is in a good state and at times it needs some interventions; leaders and HR Professionals need to be aware of this. Whilst mental health has always been with us, it has become part of the leadership agenda over the past few years. However, over the course of the pandemic its importance has really accelerated, and it is the responsibility for both HR and Leadership to find new ways of working to support people with the massive challenges they have faced over the last year.
Successful leaders need to be aware that only a portion of an individual’s stress will come from a working environment, however the impact (from outside work) will have a major effect on their performance at work. A strong leader will need to show empathetic leadership by supporting both in-work and out of work challenges (whether that is family issues, ill health, bereavement etc). Organisations need to encourage their employees to visit doctors, attend screening appointments and also recognize other challenges that people are facing – a letter of condolence from a leader on the death of a close family member, will be an action that is remembered for far longer than the time it took to write the letter.
There is a commercial element to this. As one of our guests made the point, many organisations have the wrong focus; if a CEO’s first priority is creating shareholder value and they leave the welfare of the employee to the end, they will create long term problems that will take time and energy to resolve. However, a more proactive employer will start with the employee and ensure that they are the number one priority. A well person is a productive person, which will therefore lead to more positive results. So, the more proactive an employer is around wellbeing, the more productive the business will be.
There is a general sense of growing exhaustion and fatigue across organisations at the moment – whether that is the employees or the leadership team, everyone needs to look at the way they behave and the impact that they have on their workforce; leading by example, taking exercise, taking time off (even if in the current climate it is just time at home) will encourage their staff to similar activity and create greater wellbeing for everyone.
Sending task focused emails out to employees in the evening might cleanse the leader’s inbox but it will either give the message that the employee needs to be on-line late in the night to respond or give them a mountain of work first thing in the morning, which could result in more stress and anxiety.
Leaders, too, need to take care of themselves and “show up” in front of their staff – holidays are just as important for them, and being able to say no to requests as well as yes can help to relieve some of the pressure.
It’s all about Trust
There has been a widespread loss of trust in the media and Government over the last few years, and according to the latest Edelman Trust Barometer survey, employees now see their employer as a key source of trust and truth, so it is important to maintain this.
Authenticity is a key to building trust – it is ensuring you build credibility around what you’re doing with what you’re actually saying. There is no point on one hand showing leadership care but on the other hand driving staff beyond what they can achieve. Many companies are needing to make redundancies, but it is the way that leaders go about it that will have a lasting impact – caring for those who are losing their jobs, and not cutting back so far that the ones that are left have unachievable objectives.
As Mark Allan outlined; if you treat your employees as your customers, you will build much more loyalty.
Andy Wolfe described the six mindsets that leaders should use to support their team through times of change (Leadership Care, Wellbeing, Resilience, Growth Mindset, Thriving Under Pressure and High Performing) and how deploying the right mix of each of these will give individuals the confidence to grow through periods of transition.
Building resilience gives strategies to stay sane and cope with change, the unknown and the unexpected; and it is about developing the right mindset to get through tougher times and embracing each day as it happens, while accepting the brutal reality of it. Don’t fight it and don’t lose faith that it will get better, eventually.
At the moment, more than ever, we don’t know how the future will look but we do know it will eventually get better, so embrace daily reality and each learning experience.
There is a level of anxiety from employees about what the future shape and style of their company will look like, including working patterns, organizational structures, how the mix of working from the office or home will look. Planning for the future is key for leaders. They need to create the space for their staff to think and breathe and ensure they are engaging fully with their staff.
In concluding there were some great comments made by our panelists and guests. To summarize:
If you would like to discuss our Boyden views, how we are partnering with our clients or participate in our next Leadership Roundtable events, please get in touch with our Financial Services experts Juliet Hardingham and Richard Plaistowe.