There is no doubt that the past year has had a massive impact on employee wellbeing and the pandemic has shed light on the vulnerabilities of managing a fragmented workforce and the need to expedite a safe return to work. Pressures have been immense: rapid implementation of worker protection; acceleration of technological innovation; structural changes; longer hours; remote working; and loneliness and grief. So how do we go about rebuilding the resilience of our workforce to ensure it is fit for purpose in the new world of work?
With the UK’s largest event dedicated to improving workforce health and wellbeing only two weeks away, we look at some of the strategies and interventions that are shaping the road to resilience and recovery.
Rebuilding Trust, Culture and Values
Employers will need to work hard to rebuild and maintain values-based trust with companies coming under greater scrutiny. Ethical business expert Philippa Foster-Back CBE explores how organisations have reacted to the crisis and looked after their staff. She believes that those that have shown resilience in the face of the pandemic have done so in large part due to the strength of their culture, offering insights into what exactly underlies such resilience. Liz Groundland, Head of SHEQ at Seddon Construction, profiles best practice in building employee trust specifically around health and safety. She explains how Seddon have created an agenda focused on the whole being, delivering simple messages. Brighton and Hove Albion’s Paul Barber discusses how the Football Club uses its values and culture to drive high employee performance and success and how that impacts on engagement, resilience and wellbeing.
Managing Moral Injuries
Some employees, particularly frontline workers, have been exposed to traumatic events and moral dilemmas. Professor of Defence Mental Health, Neil Greenberg, says “these situations place workers at risk of suffering ‘moral injuries’, a term he describes as the distress experienced when circumstances clash with one’s moral or ethical code. This puts staff at risk of developing a range of mental health issues.” It is imperative that organisations understand how to protect employee mental health when carrying out psychologically risky roles and to provide timely and effective evidence-based support.
Prevention, Self-Care and Positive Psychology
Prevention is key to ensuring that staff are fully protected in terms of exposure, adequate safety equipment, sustainable shift patterns and flexibility. We are seeing an acceleration of self-care initiatives to rebuild resilience and iOH President Neil Loach believes that “adopting the self-care approach can have a dramatic affect on building employee resilience.” Nic Malcolmson who has been running a successful resilience programme at Chelsea and Westminster hospital for the past five years agrees. He profiles his work around dispelling negative emotions, anxiety and fear using an integrated model of psychotherapy and coaching alongside elements of positive psychology to build resilience and support wellbeing.
The real burden of Long-COVID is just emerging and early indications suggest that organisations will need to create and implement strategies to provide early interventions to support employees with life-changing complications such as fatigue, cognitive impairment, breathlessness, anxiety, depression and joint and muscle pain. The timing for the Health and Wellbeing at Work event could not be better, profiling case studies and guidance that provide valuable tools to support the workforce. Occupational Psychologists Karen Royle and Georgina Wong look at the latest research into Long-COVID and its impact on the performance of individuals and teams. They profile symptom management strategies and explain how work patterns can be adapted to rebuild resilience and facilitate a speedy return to work.
Anticipating Future Risk
Assessing risk has become a major part of our repertoire and now more than ever employers will need to keep one step ahead of the game. We are privileged that Professor David Coggon will be sharing his ground-breaking work on how to assess worker vulnerability to COVID. Using his COVID age tool, employers can estimate the vulnerability of individual employees according to demographic characteristics and health-related variables in people of working age. Professor Neil Ferguson will provide some insights into future emerging infectious diseases that organisations will need to prepare for if we are to avoid future disruptions to work.
If you would like to find solutions and examples of best practice in rebuilding resilience as well as other workplace initiatives covering worker protection, safety behaviour, mental health, emotional wellbeing, employee engagement and managing sleep and fatigue, then be sure to register for Health and Wellbeing at Work Week, 15-19 March 2021. Only two weeks to go!