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How to maintain culture and morale for staff whilst WFH

By Naomi Thompson, Head of Organisational Development at Beneden Health

We have always involved our staff heavily in our health and wellbeing strategies, with a team of ambassadors across the business helping to promote wellbeing in the workplace.

Our ambassadors seek feedback from colleagues about how effective the strategy is and help shape the direction and focus of our offering, which has been valuable from the start, but became crucial as we started to understand more about the impact COVID-19 was having on our business and indeed the world.

It’s vital, at this uncertain time, that employees know their business is continuing to respond rapidly to their changing health and wellbeing needs, offering them support, advice and guidance in what is an unknown work environment for many people, with increasing demands and pressures on stress levels, mental health, finances and relationships.

As a business, we immediately assessed our existing health and wellbeing plan to establish what was of value and what wasn’t. Initially, priority was placed on infection control and mental health as the group understood health anxiety was an increasing concern for our people. Those focuses have changed whilst we have considered the impact on working relationships and physical health as the whole workforce began working from home.

We have since established a range of activities to support staff, including guidance on sleep hygiene, home working hacks, top tips on balancing home-schooling and working, desk stretching and virtual bootcamps. But one size doesn’t fit all, and businesses should ensure their wellbeing policy considers the different situations of their employees, to ensure culture and morale stays high at what is a difficult time for everyone.

Some tips on engaging with your team and fostering a positive culture of support include:

1. Take time to listen to your people. Find representatives from across the business who can be the voice to how your people are feeling and find a channel to hear their views. They will tell you how your messages are landing, what challenges your workforce is facing, and will have brilliant ideas on how to keep your people engaged. Empower them to take action. Here at Benenden Health we have switched on a collaboration tool on our intranet, a community space where our people can talk to each other and share pictures of their new working environment and thoughts.

2. Communicate, communicate and communicate. Our CEO communicates daily by way of email, even when there isn’t much to tell. Staff tell us it has been really reassuring that their CEO is talking to them regularly, empathising with their changing circumstances and providing updates as to how our business is adapting.

3. Assess your health and wellbeing strategy and adapt it to prioritise the areas that will help your workforce now. If you don’t have a health and wellbeing policy, utilise any services you have, like an Employee Assistance Programme, which may be able to provide resources to help your managers and colleagues with things including mental health support and financial advice.

4. Be adaptable, identify that your workforce is working very differently, some are taking on new roles, caring for the vulnerable and home schooling, some may be working in a difficult environment. The expectations on how they perform should be realistic and not reflective of their circumstance.

5. Remember this is temporary, there is an end to this, how you treat your people during this time will reflect on how loyal and engaged they are during the process to rebuild your business disruption.

Benenden Health has produced a Coronavirus hub on its website with tips and information about how to stay healthy and look after yourself in isolation.