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Top tips to help employees thrive in the post-pandemic workplace

Jamie Mackenzie, Director - Sodexo Engage

Every year, Mental Health Awareness Week is an important occasion to raise awareness around mental ill health. Unsurprisingly, the impacts of multiple lockdowns caused by Covid-19 have put a strain on the wellbeing of millions, with depression in adults more than doubling since the start of the pandemic.

However, poor mental health comes in various forms, and by no means is confined to chronic depression or other serious illnesses – in fact, research shows that a common feeling shared by many is a general sense of stagnation and emptiness. There’s even a term for it – it’s called languishing, and it might be the dominant emotion of 2021.

As the roadmap out of lockdown edges closer to normality here are four key ways in which employers can help employees move from languishing to thriving in the post-pandemic world.

1. An open-door policy is imperative
Research shows that nearly two-thirds (65%) of Brits are anxious about the prospect of going back to the office. As such, the importance of an open-door policy cannot be understated as staff make the transition from homeworking to returning to the office. By creating a safe and friendly environment, both virtually and in the real world, employers can ensure that languishing staff will feel more comfortable to raise any concerns they have before they become more serious.

2. Encourage good work-life balance
Research has found that 52% of employees believe that the boundaries between work and home life are becoming increasingly distorted – a 40% increase from February 2020. For those who feel that they are languishing, a good work-life balance is crucial, so it’s vital for employers to remind staff to take some time away from their desk.

Whether it’s taking a proper lunch break, logging off on time and having an evening off rather than working into the night, or even taking half an hour to go for a walk and get some fresh air – employers need to make it clear that taking proper breaks is important – not only for employee’s mental health, but also for their productivity and motivation.

3. Resources and perks make all the difference
From financial pressures to the anxiety of navigating the ‘new normal’, there’s plenty of pressures being placed on employees right now. Offering benefits like Employee Assistance Programmes (EAPs) can be very helpful, as they can provide staff with confidential access to professional mental health counsellors when they need it most.

Benefits ranging from financial advice to discounts on shopping and entertainment can also make a big difference when it comes to helping languishing employees to re-energise. And given the fact 75% of employees are more likely to stay with their employer because of their employee benefits package, it’s a key area that businesses can’t afford to ignore.

4. Flexibility is here to stay
Covid-19 has demonstrated that remote working models can be successful, so employers should not shy away from considering more flexible models full-time. Research shows almost nine out of 10 people do not want to return to the office permanently, with half of employees stating they would likely leave their jobs after the pandemic if employers don’t offer a hybrid work model.

As such, in addition to welcoming employees back to the office, employers should make staff aware there is scope for flexible working. Doing so will not only help to increase staff retention, but also attract the best new talent.

Mental Health Awareness Week is hugely important in shining a spotlight on mental illness, which affects 1 in 4 of us each year. Given the long-lasting impacts of Covid-19, this statistic is only set to rise.

Employers will play an essential role in helping employees adjust to the post-Covid workplace, and eliminating any feelings of languishing. Focusing on employee wellbeing is not an optional extra for today’s businesses – it is essential if they are to remain competitive while attracting and retaining the best talent.

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