Prioritising Mental Health and Wellbeing in the Workplace

By Jo Twiselton, change, comms and wellbeing consultant.

Throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, many organisations, teams and individuals faced significant mental health challenges, with enforced isolation and shifting work practices taking their toll. Many put employee mental health and wellbeing front and centre, using a range of approaches.

It’s some of these organisations that the CIPR Health Group has showcased through a series of case studies, bringing these best practice approaches to life for other practitioners.

Five of the case study authors joined Emma Leech, former CIPR President for a panel discussion during Mental Health Awareness Week, sharing a wealth of insights. Here are our top takeaways.

Things are nowhere near back to normal

When we asked the audience for a word to describe 2021 so far, we had a range of different responses, collated in this word cloud. As we’re only five months into the new year, fatigue is still very real for practitioners.

We’re all learning

Almost every speaker mentioned that their landscapes changed constantly, and they’ve had to continuously adapt. They didn’t have all the answers, they didn’t get things right first time and so as they learned, they introduced new ways of dealing with the challenges they faced.

At Sussex Police, for example, they recognised that they didn’t have enough opportunities to connect with people and so appointed a welfare manager just to check in on people on a daily basis; essential when line managers were tied up in the major incident structure.

As Emily Rockey from Sussex Police explained, they didn’t get it right straight away: “We learned a lot very quickly in those first few weeks of the lockdown and the early part of the pandemic around the importance of prioritising wellbeing, which has helped us to no end”.

And as Kam White from Hotwire shared, doing what you think is the right thing, sometimes isn’t: “At the beginning we were doing things to connect everybody but that was tiring people out. So, we realised that this year we need to do more gentle, passive activities, like having inspirational speakers come in so people could just be passive members of the audience.”

The small things matter

Almost everyone talked about small changes that made a big difference. From Hotwire, building work around wellness (rather than the other way around) to CUH focusing on how to bring people back and creating normality in the simplest way possible; it wasn’t about promoting the wellbeing services they have, it was about their people.

It’s not a one size fits all

Each organisation had different ways and approaches of dealing with their respective responses and processes unique to their way of working. But the common theme across all of them? The focus on people. As Jo Bland from NHS Digital summed up, “People are at the heart of everything we do… we had a real ambition that we were going to be physically distant but socially close.”

Marc Silverside, also from NHS Digital, highlighted the fine line that wellbeing message fatigue can present: “the team is a whole group of different people, so we just have to keep checking and making sure that everybody is aware of the support we have”.

This panel discussion gave us a very brief insight into the challenges that many different organisations have faced over the last fourteen months. They have had to continually adapt, often very rapidly, and are all aware that there is still more change and so more work to come.

There are some fantastic insights for other practitioners to explore in both the case studies and the recording of the panel discussion. Look out for more follow-ups from this event in the coming weeks and months.

You can read all the case studies and find out more about the resources available from CIPR, here.

Thank you to the panellists and our Chair Jo Bland, Head of strategic engagement & internal communications, NHS Digital; Emma Leech, Director of Marketing and Communication, Nottingham Trent University; Marc Silverside, Associate Director  of Communications, NHS Digital; Emily Rockey, Deputy Head of Media & Communications, Sussex Police; Sarah Roberts, Head of Digital Communications, Cambridge University Hospitals; Kam White, Head of People and Culture, Hotwire Europe.

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