The long-term impact COVID-19 has had on people’s mental health and wellbeing is still unknown. According to Mental Health First Aid England, 1 in 4 people experience mental health issues each year and around 792 million people are affected by mental health issues globally. At any given time, 1 in 6 working-age adults have symptoms associated with mental ill-health and these figures are likely to increase due to the COVID-19 pandemic and its repercussions.
We recognised early on that the crisis was going to have a significant impact on employee wellbeing and that we needed to do something about it. A first step was to ensure that all staff had an appropriate homeworking environment, everything from office furniture to home WIFI. But pretty quickly we realised we needed to do more, and so we set up a wellbeing team consisting of staff members at all levels and across regions, ensuring a varied wellbeing perspective.
With guidance from mental health charity Mind, the IAPB wellbeing team established an action plan to support a healthy and happy workspace for all staff.
Webinar and Staff Survey
We felt it was crucial that everyone fully understood what wellness at work actually meant. To that end, we held a webinar for staff, in collaboration with Mind. The session covered information on various mental health conditions; stress trigger points and warnings, advice on how best to deal with stress; and the difference between healthy and unhealthy levels stress at work and its long-term impact. We conducted a staff survey on employee wellbeing, so we could understand what areas within IAPB required most action. The survey was done anonymously to ensure everyone felt confident to speak truthfully without judgment.
These findings gave an insight into the wellbeing of IAPB as a team. It also brought to light the impact that the COVID-19 pandemic and working from home was having on staff morale. The staff survey also enabled us to create a unique wellbeing policy which took account of people’s concerns and high-stress points. We agreed to revaluate this policy twice a year through staff surveys to maintain its relevance and effectiveness.
Employee Assistance Programme
A core component of our wellbeing policy was to implement an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP). An EAP is an employer-funded benefit that offers employees confidential counselling and advice on a wide range of work and personal issues. As a global organisation, we ensured that all our staff, in all regions, had an EAP available to them. The EAP services are managed by a third party and are completely confidential.
We also felt it was incredibly important to appoint a mental health first aider. Mental health first aiders are trained to provide initial support to employees who are going through some form of mental health issue and can also provide guidance for those wishing to seek external assistance. As the wellbeing team leader, I was appointed to take on this challenge and attend a two-day workshop. The two-day workshop covered a variety of topics including the spectrum of mental health illnesses; warning signs to look out for and techniques and coping mechanisms for colleagues who may be struggling.
Mission: London to Singapore
We have also added a bit of fun and challenge to our mission to create a happy and healthy workspace. We have provided an online fitness class subscription to all staff. As these classes are generally done alone, we felt we should also set up a virtual fitness challenge as a socially distant and active way to work together. Our challenge: get from London to Singapore, a total of 9441 miles. Staff can run, swim, walk, count daily steps and cycle towards reaching Singapore (virtually of course!). Everyone has been fantastic at working towards this goal and have covered almost 1000 miles in just under 3 weeks.
The wellbeing team also hosts coffee break sessions, the only rule in these sessions is no work talk. They are an opportunity for staff to catch up with each other as we might have done by the tea station in WeWork or at a Council of Members. Sometimes it is easy to work with someone for years but not actually know anything about them and during these COVID times, this can be very isolating. Each wellbeing team member is also available for small group or one to one sessions too!
Mental ill-health will affect all of us at some point throughout our lives. It is crucially important that we work towards removing the taboo that mental health is clouded in. The wellbeing team and I have started on a journey towards creating safe and supportive workspaces for staff. We would love to hear other’s experiences.
If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to get in touch with me or a member of the Wellbeing team.
Please also see the details below for Mind – who have been enormously helpful in guiding us through this process.
Mind – Well at Work:
Email: [email protected]
Tel: 020 3813 8771
The IAPB wellbeing team members:
Holly Aindow – Wellbeing Team Leader