Best Practices in HR

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Svetlana Elfimova
  April 24, 2020

What would you do differently if you knew about the pandemic in advance?

Why managers should concern themselves about employee psychological well-being 


Have you evaluated how your company has responded to the world health crisis? What support was quickly made available to your employees? What would you do differently, if you knew the pandemic was coming and going to impact us to this extent?


We, as business leaders, are counting the days until the end of the pandemic and looking forward to getting back to “normal”. Or the “new normal”. But how certain are we about the normality that is awaiting us in the future? Changes are inevitable, and we all have to adapt quickly. 


The first crisis HR departments had to respond to was communication about remote working arrangements and a quick change of strategy to support the business through this change. Managing people who suddenly had to completely change their way of working and who were under increased pressure due to the unpredictable circumstances and threats they faced, and still face, was a challenge for many, and continues to be so. And that was all before difficult decisions were needed to furlough people or not.


Employee well-being is something some organisations talk about, as well as practitioners and motivational speakers spread the word about, but, how often do we, as senior leaders, truly pay attention to this topic? Not that often, right?


Therefore, we will focus on the psychological aspects such a dramatic change has on people. According to studies conducted by Wright et al., psychological well-being is the only significant predictor of performance, whereas job satisfaction is associated with better job performance, but only when psychological well-being is high. 


Psychological well-being is basically about the ability to build a positive relationship with yourself and others, to have meaning in life and work, and to be open and interested in personal mastery and growth. It’s about being autonomous; but, also feeling connected to others. It’s about having a positive outlook on life, and feeling able and resourceful enough to bounce back after an adverse experience. Psychological well-being is achieved through finding a balance between challenges and rewarding events in both life and work.


The UK Government has emphasised in guidelines for companies that a duty of care is particularly important during this time. Employers have to evaluate the psychological risks to their employees, associated with the current situation, and then offer support when needed or wanted. Obviously, with the pressures of such quick work and life changes, the balance has been lost for many. HR practitioners have the weight of this responsibility on their shoulders and have had to come up with effective solutions in a very short space of time.

Some companies in the UK are now offering support to their employees by providing access to free courses on CBT . Others have organised therapies that are available through insurance companies. Others still have offered dedicated mental health programmes and organised deep relaxation sessions for their employees. Employee assistance programmes have skyrocketed in popularity and mindfulness sessions are being talked about widely these days. People genuinely have become more interested in how we function as human beings, what’s underneath the surface that makes us react and cope differently to different circumstances?

The leaders who responded quickly to the crisis and communicated openly to their people about available support are now being lauded and recognised as empathic, kind leaders. This is the humanistic approach to managing people in general that the whole World is turning towards.


So, going back to our question: What would you do differently if you knew about the pandemic in advance?


If I may brainstorm here about what I would do, I’d first be more open about talking about mental health at work. I’d communicate openly on this topic, so that people feel safe to share their own concerns. I’d choose well-being programmes to support my employees and create a separate budget for it. I’d set a positive example, by not only in my own performance, but on how to look after myself better in terms of well-being and getting proper rest. I’d organise financial advice services through the company to help people manage their personal finances better, or at least to get advice on this subject. I’d make sure that communication channels were effective and everyone in the organisation knew where we were, and what our intentions were. I’d remind people to be physically active more often, to eat healthier, switch off their email notifications when off work, organise more online social events to feel connected, and to remember to remind all employees that our people are what makes us great.