Wellbeing crisis | How lockdown 2.0 has sparked new HR issues

How lockdown 2.0 has sparked new HR issues

While the first lockdown was a novel challenge for employers to take one of the upshots is that it might've helped HR leaders learn some lessons for 'Lockdown 2.0'.

However, the second round has also thrown some added pressures into the mix for HR teams to manage.

One is the increasing concern around employees’ mental health and wellbeing. In fact, a recent study of 400 HR leaders by Westfield Health discovered that 45% of respondents identified wellbeing as their biggest challenge.

UK employees are also showing concerns for their own wellbeing, as data shared by Close Brothers revealed that 41% are now more worried about their mental health whilst 45% are concerned about their physical health.

Workers in the UK have previously cited feelings of loneliness and burnout as well as struggling to switch off from work while being remote.

This has all contributed to worsening mental wellbeing throughout the different lockdown periods. In turn this has forced HR leaders to think about how they can support staff remotely, to help boost wellbeing, morale and productivity.

This is a notion that Matt Hubbard, Lloyds Banking Group’s Ambassador for the East of England, has also pointed to. He told HR Grapevine: “I think we’ve learned a huge amount from the first lockdown in England – line managers have really had to lean into being even more alive to their team’s physical and mental wellbeing and connecting with their employees on a more personal level, rather than solely checking in on how they’re doing from a work perspective.

“This second lockdown is an opportunity to truly embed more progressive initiatives that were piloted earlier this year.”

How has mental wellbeing changed?

Eight months into the pandemic, the conversation around mental health and wellbeing has started to shift. Prior to covid-19, it seemed that many organisations didn’t have the necessary tools in place to support mental health, however the pandemic has pushed this issue to the forefront, according to Hubbard.

He explained: “We’re hearing from numerous businesses that prior to the Covid-19 outbreak, mechanisms weren’t in place – or at least weren’t widely promoted – to encourage frank discussions around mental health in the workplace.”

Despite this, he shared that change is happening, and that the crisis has prompted HR to encourage “more regular discussions” that “are happening with line mangers on Teams or Zoom”. He shared that while concerns over isolation and a sense of the unknown were a topic for discussion during the first pandemic, employees are now growing worried about new matters.

He said: “Anxieties that are now front of mind are around career progression, and job security – particularly among younger generations.”

Tackling the stigma

Thanks to these open conversations taking place, HR has been able to tackle the stigma that often surrounds mental health. But to go one step further and ensure employees have the support they need during a second lockdown, Hubbard said it’s crucial to signpost channels and the tools available to support staff.

“At Lloyds Banking Group, we’ve been able to offer a comprehensive suite of support resources, all available online, through our wellbeing portal, which focuses on both prevention as well as support wellbeing challenges be that working from home, domestic abuse, finances, staying healthy and much more,” he shared.

Particularly, with a remote workforce, he stated that HR should strive to empower leadership and management teams to promote healthy practices and to lead by example. He explained: “For instance, try not to send out of hours emails unless it’s really necessary, find ways to reduce email traffic by picking up the phone where you can, and encourage regular breaks.”

What’s Lloyds Banking Group doing?

To ensure its staff are receiving the support they need during this uncertain time, Hubbard revealed that Lloyds Banking Group is rolling out extensive tools including the training of 2,500 colleagues to become Mental Health Advocates by 2021. In addition, the organisation has continued working with its charity partner Mental Health UK and have achieved over £11million in fundraising.

“We need to break the stigma around mental health and be prepared to initiate regular conversations to help tackle the issue,” he concluded. “Even if only a handful of people become more open to talking about their concerns, it will help to remove any unnecessary shame or embarrassment associated with the problem, and encourage more people to come forward when they need support.”

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