Muthumala S (Mala) is Head of Human Resources for Congruent. She leads all aspects of people management and company culture, including attracting world-class, diverse talent and developing a future-ready workforce. Mala has over 20 years of HR leadership experience in Manufacturing, FMCG, IT, and ITES industries. She has led the transformation of HR into a strategic partner, facilitated organization-wide transformation and capability development, and was instrumental in building a strong talent pool through a series of leadership development initiatives.
In the last 20 odd months, work and life have come under the same roof – responsibilities doubled, priorities changed, and an added health crisis struck many of our families. Many of us were stuck at home all by ourselves, feeling the sting of isolation, away from social engagement with colleagues. The struggle to manage it all became visible to peers and colleagues. The hybrid work model is going to be the future of how we’d work and that means, employers will have to take the responsibility of creating a work culture that supports the employees’ emotional and mental wellbeing. It is important to be cognizant of the factors that work from home has effectuated.
Thankfully, many organizations have introduced various initiatives to acknowledge and support their employees’ mental wellbeing. Business leaders have looked closely at their workforce and cater to their needs based on who they are post work hours, and many are prioritizing their employees’ mental health not only while they are working but also when they are away from work.
Here are a few ways in which companies could support employees’ mental wellbeing while they continue a remote or hybrid work regime:
Understanding the real picture: The pandemic has not only altered our lives but has also changed us from within. It is important for employers to understand this fact and give that much-needed space to their employees to just be who they have become. It’s important for managers not to push employees to work the way they used to work before the pandemic. Mental health issues like anxiety, depression, or PTSD may likely stay for a while. Employees need to accept this reality and provide apt support to their workforce who are doing their best to perform while dealing with these problems.
Setting model behavior: Just saying that you support mental health won’t do much, it is crucial to walk the walk. It’s essential that the employers set boundaries and promote self-care so that the employees don’t feel guilty to take a break when required. Managers should definitely focus on their teams’ wellbeing and not set unrealistic tasks that would lead to unnecessary stress and eventually burnout.
Check-in culture: As an organization, it is good to promote a check-in culture among employees. Not only asking them how they are doing but also checking regularly what kind of help or support they require from the company. Leaders should always be willing to hear out their team members and not be overbearing. Showing compassion can go a long way in boosting the morale of the employees. Creating a trustworthy environment where employees can be open about their issues is important.
Flexibility: While working from home, it is only natural that the employees’ personal lives would interfere with work. Companies need to understand that there might be occasional changes in the routine of a person and it’s okay to allow flexible work hours. Video calling is the new meeting room, and Zoom fatigue is one of the most compelling issues that employees have to deal with. It’s good to give a break from video calls once in a while and go old-school with a simple phone call to get the work done.
Leadership training: As leaders, it is not only essential to be aware of your team members and the issues they are facing as they work from home, but also know how to handle them. Organizations need to host sessions for leaders and managers that focus more on empathy. Being empathetic to colleagues’ mental health issues is crucial and workplace mental health training is yet another initiative that companies are opting for in order to train their leadership and sensitize themselves towards mental health stigmas and acquiring proper tools to help their team members. Fundamental leadership principles are the same, just that it should be adapted to remote working.
As remote work is here to stay, companies should look at redesigning their programs, policies and practices to create a supportive environment for their employees to thrive despite the mental constraints caused by the pandemic. It’s essential to make sure all guidelines are updated to support remote work and new habits are trained and retrained.