With HR accountable for such a vast array of factors effecting personnel within an organisation, it has been interesting to see the development of job roles positioned within HR functions over the past 12 months, and what appears to be prioritised when talking with senior leaders about their HR service. I have noticed a significant increase in job vacancies centered purely around mental health and wellbeing.
Even prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, wellbeing has become increasingly topical with recent shocking statistics surrounding stress and mental health at work (1 in 6.8 people are experience mental health problems in the workplace – cited from The Mental Health Foundation), and similarly upsetting figures surrounding male mental health and suicide (Nearly 6,000 suicides occurred in the UK in 2017 meaning there is one death by suicide every two hours – cited from The Office for National Statistics). As the conversation around mental health continues to become increasingly normalised and awareness of these issues is helping to save lives; employers and HR teams are reacting in turn by really looking at how they can actively support their workforce.
As part of the focus on wellbeing, I regularly speak with HR candidates who have undergone training to be Mental Health First Aiders (via MHFA England – https://mhfaengland.org/), a two day course enabling them to become the ‘go-to’ person for employees needing to speak out. This is one of the many ways’ employers are investing in ensuring their workforce feel supported at work. It is safe to say that once we emerge the other side of COVID-19, this is only going to increase. The outbreak has certainly served up multiple mental challenges and taught us some valuable lessons as regards employee health and wellbeing.
Perhaps considerations for employers moving forward will look as follows:
- How often do employees really need to be in the office in order to deliver as normal?
- Are people really going to consider a 1 hour+ commute time after realising the mental health benefits of a stress-free and traffic-less morning routine?
- How can we encourage regular physical exercise and fresh air to ensure people are healthy, happy, and motivated?
- Contributions to gym memberships or introducing cycle to work schemes?
- How can we look at training and developing our HR teams in order to provide employees with the best mental health support?
- Are there ‘break-out’ areas where employees can be encouraged to take time away from screens? Think beanbags, magazines, boardgames?
Team building and activities – how can we encourage our teams to build on their relationships outside work hours in order to foster a stronger culture inside the workplace? Raising money for a charity? A Wolf Run? A ‘Bake-Off?
A few years ago, you would rarely see positions exclusively titled ‘Employee Wellbeing Advisor’ but this is set to become far more commonplace in the future, post-covid job market.