City Cruises

Blue Monday

By Chris Mullen, PhD, Executive Director, The Workforce Institute at UKG

With the new year starting in lockdown in the UK, and the month of January involving Blue Monday—thought to be the most depressing day of the year—there are many employee concerns that managers and organisations as a whole must recognise in order to alleviate anxieties in the workplace.

Many people are experiencing stress, anxiety, loneliness or depression unlike ever before, which can lead to a dip in productivity and overall happiness at work—therefore finding new ways to help your workforce cope with these unique times should be a top consideration for organisations not only to be an employer of choice but to benefit the entire organisation and its needs. After all, great businesses are powered by great people, and happy employees do right by your company and its customers.

The mass uncertainty felt by the working world in light of COVID-19 is exemplified by our recent research at The Workforce Institute at UKG, entitled “Hindsight 2020: COVID-19 Concerns into 2021,” which analysed the top concerns of 4,000 employees and business leaders across the world.

This research found that nearly half (47%) of UK workers say their organisation could have better supported their needs during the pandemic, calling for business leaders to recognise this downfall and respond accordingly. While over two thirds (67%) did say that they trust their employer to care about their mental health and wellness, organisations can be doing a lot more to ensure welfare needs are being met.

An important aspect to overall workplace satisfaction is the feeling of trust. Over half of UK workers (51%) say that organisational trust has a direct impact on their mental health, meaning organisations should evaluate their relationships with employees with an intentional lean toward trust.

It’s possible that managers will need to rethink the trust paradigm all together, as the research states that most UK employees and business leaders (67%) think that trust at work must be earned. Among C-level leaders, nearly three-quarters (79%) believe that it is up to the employee to earn trust. Only one-third (33%) of employees and business leaders feel trust should be presumed.

Why is trust so hard to come by in the modern workplace? I believe that having regular and honest conversations with your team members will build the confidence needed to open up about their concerns, thus enabling managers to provide guidance and support to employees who may be struggling in the current situation. In fact, in regard to reducing employee fatigue and burnout, over half (53%) of UK workers stated that their organisation took steps to prevent employee burnout at the start of the pandemic.

Our new world of work is always on, with many employees feeling the need to prove their worth by going above and beyond their usual working hours due to fears of becoming superfluous as many have in the current climate. Managers must therefore be intentional with their employees now more than ever, taking full advantage of virtual platforms to get a sense of how staff are feeling, and to alleviate any pressures they may be feeling.

And finally, another key lesson that we can take away from this crisis is that the working situation of every employee is different. While people’s actual working style might not have changed, factors such as child and elderly care have had a significant impact on the productivity of staff. To help employees cope with the disruption, organisations should be implementing stress management and self-care practices for their entire workforce. To ensure employees are as satisfied and engaged as possible, encouraging them to partake in simple activities such as exercise, and journaling, is a way for organisations to help alleviate negative mental health symptoms employees may be experiencing.

So, the fundamental areas organisations need to be focusing on throughout 2021 is to build trust, reduce burnout, and introduce self-care practices – three simple steps employers can be working towards to prioritise the mental and physical wellbeing of their staff. As we move further into the new year, it is organisations making extra efforts to tap into the emotional wellbeing of their employees who will be best placed to survive and remain competitive throughout the ongoing disruption. After all, an engaged employee is a more productive employee.

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