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When was the last time you checked in with a colleague?

Simon Blake, Chief Executive - MHFA England

As more organisations consider the possibility of offering remote, hybrid, or flexible working permanently, maintaining human connections with our colleagues will be more vital than ever. Many of us have had greater insight into each other’s lives than before with family members, pets or even the neighbour’s building works disrupting zoom calls and meetings. Recent research* revealed over a third (34%) of people felt they knew their colleagues better as a result of the pandemic.

This Mental Health Awareness Week, it’s important to remember that while some of us may be healthier and happier working from home, for others the experience has been challenging. The COVID-19 pandemic has created social, economic, and health uncertainties and insecurities and exacerbated inequalities for many. Employers must be aware of these challenges and work to create safe workplaces for all employees, so everyone can safely and proudly bring their whole self to work.

Where do employees want to work post–pandemic?
As COVID-19 restrictions ease and organisations consider what their working practices might look like going forward, organisations need to evaluate what is working when it comes to employee wellbeing and how can it be improved. Now is the time to engage staff to hear their views on what they want in the future. Many people will be looking for employers that can offer freedoms and flexibility built on trust, and will be keen to have hybrid working options post-pandemic. This could be offering flexible working hours and allowing employees to split their time between home and the office to suit their needs.

Flexible working arrangements can help employees to better plan their working weeks and feel confident that they can adjust their working hours if responsibilities change. Key to the success of a new hybrid way of working will be understanding what works best for employees and the organisation. Even employers who had well executed mental health and wellbeing strategies before and during the pandemic, will need to evaluate their approach for future ways of working.

The pandemic has torn up the rulebook and people’s expectations have changed – so the workplace needs to change too. Employers need to engage, consult and review with staff every step of the way, making the framework for flexible working clear and talking to individual employees about what works best for them.

When was the last time you checked in with a colleague?
All our formal one-to-one meetings start with a conversation about the employee’s wellbeing. This helps line managers get to know their team and spot if someone is struggling.

Regular wellbeing catch-ups with colleagues are key to creating a culture of care and supporting people’s mental health, especially as some of us continue to work remotely.  Just like with physical health, prevention is better than cure – and regularly checking in with your own and your colleague’s mental health is a good protective measure.

Creating a safe space for staff to speak openly about wellbeing will help people to ask for support if they are experiencing issues such as poor mental health or struggling to manage their work-life balance. Wherever you are working from, feeling supported to choose to bring your whole self to work is better for wellbeing and better for business.

Human connections remain important
Although some of us are planning to return to the office in the coming months, or may have started to do so, others may not wish to do this for some time or at all. Wherever we are working from, it is vital that we establish how to make all employees feel connected, even when they might be physically apart.

Employers should encourage teams to communicate as openly and frequently as possible. Making time to socialise with people from across the organisation can help people see the bigger picture, stay connected, and boost morale.

*Research from Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) England,

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