Employers have been urged to ensure line managers are given effective training to be able to boost employee morale and wellbeing ahead of the country’s return to the office.
However, they are also being warned it will not be an immediate return to normal and that staff will have widely varying feelings as the country exits the pandemic.
Ahead of an easing of Covid restrictions next week and to coincide with Mental Awareness Week, Dr Subashini M, associate medical director for UK health and protection at Aviva, said employers can help look after employees’ mental health by ensuring line managers are effectively trained.
“It’s said that ‘people do not leave their jobs; they leave their managers’. So, the one person who has a profound impact on another’s good day at work needs to be cognisant of their position,” she said.
“While in a position to cause stress, line managers are also in a privileged position to help boost employee morale and wellbeing. The first step to wielding this power wisely and with grace is awareness.”
She added that line manager training is a fundamental building block to supporting employee wellbeing and more broadly the company culture.
“Line manager training is not simply about spotting signs of stress or burnout but also being culturally aware and being vulnerable and compassionate leaders,” she continued.
“Line managers need support, training and guidance to fulfil on one of the most critical functions in getting the organisation healthy enough to thrive through and beyond the pandemic.”
No immediate return to normal
But Amy Tomlinson, head of HR at MetLife UK, warns that it’s important to remember that people’s feelings towards lockdown and the future may be very different as the country comes out of lockdown restrictions.
“While some are happy to be out and about again others may have enjoyed the security of spending more time at home,” she said.
“Stress doesn’t clock off at 5, it can carry over into our evenings and weekends, but employers have a key role to play in supporting staff.
“From small steps such as encouraging open channels of communication, watching for employee burnout and allowing employees to go at their own pace to reviewing current employee benefits policies and training mental health first aiders, businesses should ensure they are doing all they can to support staff both professionally and personally.”
Olivia Fahy, head of culture at consultancy TCC, warns that while the easing of government restrictions means that we can gradually return to the office, employers need to be aware that work life won’t just go back to normal.
“Many employees will still be battling loneliness, anxiety and stress built up over the months of lockdown, and the new world of hybrid working is likely to create its own stressors too,” she said.
“Employers will need to work hard to identify the fault lines and develop a positive, fair, and nurturing culture if they are to survive and thrive in the post-Covid world. With the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) considering failure to do so a business risk, it’s in the best interests of financial services firms to prioritise culture.”