HR’s Role in Maintaining Wellbeing During Coronavirus

In all our conversations and interactive webinars, there has been a recognition of not only the impact of the coronavirus on physical health but also its impact on mental health. Whatever the virus means individually, collectively it’s increasing anxiety, stress, sadness, boredom, loneliness and frustration. HR has a role to play in supporting people in being able to:

  • Stay connected with people. Organisations can help by being proactive, reaching out to people and providing access to Zoom and other tools that make this easier – one-to-one but also one-to-many.
  • Talk to people about their worries. Many firms have Employee Assistance Programmes and it’s important to make people aware of them.
  • Support each other. Managers should be supporting their people – asking them how they are, not just what they’re doing. HR can support managers in helping them think through how to do this.
  • Look after their body. Men sana in corpore sano – a healthy mind in a healthy body. We can prompt people with hints and tips to think about maintaining their health through diet, exercise and sleep.
  • Focus on the present. It is important that we avoid people being side-tracked by the wave of speculation on social media. We need to communicate more at the moment, telling them the truth and putting in place ways to help them survive in the short-term.

Our members recognise that HR plays a key role in helping individuals deal with these issues, not just to maintain productivity and engagement but because it is the right thing to do. In our research report Employee Health and Wellbeing – Whose Responsibility Is It? we highlighted the need for employers to take a strategic approach to health and wellbeing, one that responds to the specific needs of their own workforce and is aligned to overall business objectives.

This has never been truer. We found that the best employers focus on developing a ‘culture of health’ that not only supports individuals in being healthy, but also fosters an environment where positive attitudes to health and wellbeing are the norm. We suggest you consider the following points when thinking about how to implement an effective health and wellbeing strategy in your organisation:

  1. Does your organisation have a clear definition of what health and wellbeing means in your context? Who‘s responsible? Where is it written down? How is it communicated? How often is it reviewed? What is the purpose? Is it tailored to the needs of different segments of the workforce?
  2. Have you identified the key stakeholders and engaged them in the wellbeing strategy? How do you know they are bought in to the programme objectives? Who‘s responsible for signing off the strategy? Are the right people involved in conversations? Are the different functions that are involved in delivering health and wellbeing services aligned, and do they have compatible objectives?
  3. Are you clear about the goals and objectives for health and wellbeing within your organisation? Who decides what the goals should be and on what basis? Are they written down? How are they communicated?
  4. How do you check whether the stated goals have been achieved? How do you communicate the outcomes of your investment in health and wellbeing?
  5. Do the goals and objectives of your health and wellbeing strategy link to business outcomes? Do you know what the investment priorities are and why?
  6. Have you done enough groundwork to understand the specific needs of your workforce? What actions have you taken? Who have you spoken to? What data and evidence have you gathered? Which experts have you consulted? Is your health and wellbeing strategy linked to an overall people strategy and workforce plan?
  7. Does your strategy take account of the needs of different population groups within the workforce? Does it strike the right balance between prevention and sickness management?
  8. Are your HR policies consistent with your stated aims for employee health and wellbeing? For example, if you are looking to build resilience, does your travel policy allow people sufficient time to recover from intercontinental travel? Does your email policy give people a chance to switch off?
  9. Does the physical and cultural environment help or hinder wellbeing? How do colleagues and senior people react when someone takes time off work to learn, exercise or meditate? Who‘s responsible for ensuring the wellbeing of key people and educating senior leaders in the importance of employee health and wellbeing?
  10. What is your approach to evaluation? Do you have a dashboard of measures that tell you whether your plan is working? Who is involved in evaluating your activities? Do you consult independent experts? Who sees the results of your evaluation?
  11. What successes have been achieved? How can you share those stories to build momentum and support for the programme?

This is not just a short-term response to the current situation – we should be using the opportunity to rethink our wellbeing strategy and put in place:

  • A clearly articulated wellbeing strategy linked to business objectives.
  • Visible engagement with the strategy from leaders at all levels.
  • Programme elements that are coherent, consistent and well-integrated.
  • Evidence-based practices focused on measurable outcomes and the avoidance of ‘gimmicks’.
  • Activities aligned to the demographic and health characteristics of the workforce.
  • Services easily accessible for those who most need them.
  • Spend focused on areas that can have the greatest impact.
  • An approach that is consistent with the organisation’s culture and values.
  • A focus on preventing ill-health, enabling healthy employees to stay healthy, and early intervention when employees are ill.
  • Taking actions that support behaviour and lifestyle change, as well as building awareness and promoting good health.
  • Good quality programmes, which recognise that change can require multiple interventions.
  • Good communications, so employees and line managers are aware of what’s available and how they can access services they need.
  • Clear connection to the Employee Value Proposition, so employees understand the purpose of the programme, and how it benefits them.
  • Proper evaluation of outcomes.

This is the moment to revisit our approach to health and wellbeing not only in response to coronavirus but to build healthier organisations.

CRF will be publishing a new report on 13th May entitled Let’s Get (Beyond) Physical: Crafting A Multidimensional Approach to Employee Wellbeing. Findings will be shared as part of a Zoom Interactive Event on 27th May; you can register here.

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