For most, life is unrecognisable from what it was only a few weeks ago and more instability is likely for months to come.
This is putting an enormous strain on businesses and employees to react. As well as creating new working patterns, this change has created many new risks and placed a higher importance of an organisation’s ability to engage, motivate and reassure their people while meeting customer obligations.
In this short viewpoint, we present the increased risks that employers are exposed to and a rapid action plan that leaders can implement to improve the outcomes for their business and people.
Workplace stress and anxiety is not a new story, in fact what most organisations lack in effective mental health strategy is made up for through the abundance of mental health support and solutions.
In these unprecedented times, we have overseen the fastest shift in strategy, policies and employee engagement since the Second World War. Almost without exception traditional structures, along with the important demands, controls and connections, have dispersed as the functions of organisations move to kitchen, study and bedroom workspaces the country over.
In addition to the very human response to the threat and consequences the pandemic has presented, employees are feeling increasingly isolated, both figuratively and literally. For many they are managing existing work-related stress compounded by the new normal of significantly shifting workplace demands and controls, job and financial insecurity and concern for the safety of themselves and family.
Our research indicates that, once the initial novelty has worn off, employers are, largely, under-prepared for the consequences of managing their people as they migrate to remote working in two important areas:
- Adequate risk assessment and appropriate modification - Employers have a legal responsibility to assess their employees’ risk of workplace stress, and respond appropriately to that assessment1.
- Line management capability and tools - Line managers are citing difficulties with lack of connectedness, lack of adequate information and the emotional intelligence2 to adequately support and signpost their people’s mental health needs from afar.
In developing a rapid action plan employers should take immediate action in the following three areas:
- Conduct a stress risk assessment - Most employers will not have addressed their legal requirements in the context of the rapid shift in working conditions and highly likely impact on their people.
- Launch & communicate support tools - At times of disconnectedness, a reinforced internal communication function is important in signposting, sharing message and fostering a sense of community.
- Implement specific line manager training - Managing and motivating remotely is a learned skill, webinars and alternative learning toolkits exist to address this gap.
Responsible employers should set this as a priority and take action now to avoid the very real and potentially damaging consequences of inaction. Employers are well placed, much more so than stretched healthcare systems across the globe, to provide the support that their people need today and in the coming months.
Research indicates that organisations with an effective change and communication program in place are 3.5 times more likely to outperform their peers3. In our view, employers who take action will benefit from reduced risk exposure, a deeper sense of employee engagement and an improved agility to meet the fast paced change that the pandemic will continue to bring.
Gallagher experts are helping organisations across the UK develop approaches and action plans.