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Mental health and wellbeing in the workplace – a sustained pandemic approach

With the health and wellbeing of employees brought into sharp focus since the beginning of Covid-19 lockdown measures in March, and more recently in November, there is no doubt that the pandemic has brought challenges in every corner of every business.

For my organisation, those challenges are no different and we have worked around the clock to look after our people and constantly engage them.

The Employer Assistance Programme we launched in April has been the catalyst for our approach to ensure mental health and wellbeing is carefully looked after – especially with around 80% of staff working from home.

Our initiative has been so important not only to support our employees, but to make sure we do everything possible to keep the conversation going and provide different channels for them to us how they feel, what we should change, and where we are winning.

First and foremost, the programme saw us partnering with a 24/7 helpline which gives our employees access to wellbeing professionals who they can speak and lean on if they’re struggling – an issue we have also sought to address by assigning those who are having a tough time a ‘buddy’ who stays in constant contact with them.

As part of a menu of options, I also wanted to ensure we were going above and beyond to protect our staff and we are now well on the way to training around 24 employees in mental health first aid by January – colleagues who are trained to spot those who may be in need of support. The addition of desktop yoga classes and access to a mindful coach has also boosted those options and opportunities.

Our support programme has been a big moment for us at a difficult time and I know of situations where even the smallest intervention has made a big difference, including making sure that those with an underlying illness, pregnancy or childcare issues, are left in no doubt that they can work at home and have the flexibility they need.

I am still a relative ‘newbie’ in my organisation but throughout my career I have seen examples of what staff engagement works, and what doesn’t.

That experience was behind the launch of ‘Ask Jo’ which sees me checking in with staff on a monthly basis, the launch of live HR meetings, regular staff quizzes, recognising a job well done, and regular emails on our position around Covid-19. Our popular employee of the month drive also gives us reward, recognition and check-in opportunities.

Aside from those initiatives, for those who must come into the office for business continuity reasons, they are provided with free lunches, subsidised travel expenses and a comfortable, safe environment in which to work.

Importantly, we have also maintained our external PR programme with the regional and industry media to ensure the business and its people continue to get recognition and profile. That has also been a huge morale booster.

Overall, it makes me proud to say that the programme has played a role in keeping absence down. Staff now feel more engaged, they feel valued, and those who are continually loyal to the business have been rewarded.

This is simply a snapshot of what we’ve done. We aren’t perfect, but we are making an impact. We are constantly reviewing what good looks like in terms of our staff engagement, and we are continuing to do things differently keep people informed and most of all, supported.

Jo Regan-Iles, Chief People Officer – Sigma

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