Wellbeing in the 'new normal'

Wellbeing in the 'new normal'

By Beth McMaw Considine, CIPD Northern Ireland Branch Chair.

As we settle into autumn, with cooler temperatures, shorter days and increasing COVID-19 related restrictions, I’d like to share with you, our members, some reflections on “wellbeing in the new normal” and hopefully offer some areas for review and consideration.

First and foremost, it’s worth bearing in mind that whilst my focus leans more on mental wellbeing, wellbeing is not just about mental health. The World Health Organisation defines it as “a state of complete physical, mental and social wellbeing and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity”.

Sickness and absence levels have fallen to an all-time low, 5.8 days per employee. (CIPD, 2020). The initial reaction to this might be positive in terms of productivity and reduced cost, however, it’s important to dig a bit deeper and get underneath this figure and think about the term ‘presenteeism’ particularly as so many are working from home. This is where the role of the Line Manager becomes critical and further development should be provided to those with direct line management responsibilities.

Technology has enabled almost all of us to not only continue working but it has kept families and communities connected as well as the education sector, through the unprecedented times we have and continue to live through. But we’ve also got to be mindful of the impact of too much screen time on our wellbeing and again the level of “digital presenteeism”.

So as People Professionals, what should we be aware of and what should we be encouraging:

  • Communicate regularly on a one to one basis as well as by delivering organisation-wide advice, guidance, and updates through live streams, internal sites and email. This will help to reduce the feeling of uncertainty and will increase engagement.
  • Support employees by ensuring they have the right equipment if they are working from home and if they are in the workplace ensuring it is safe and compliant with the up to date government guidelines. If you have an employee assistance provider (EAP) make sure you are utilising the benefits and ensure employees are aware of it.
  • Listen to your employees and give them the opportunity to voice how they are feeling through regular touchpoints and surveys. This will help you measure the impact which may result in continuing with what is already in place, changing or adding to your approach.
  • Encourage virtual socials and physical exercise; this can be as simple as a 15-minute coffee check that you would normally have at a break-out area, challenging individuals to go for a walk or running virtual yoga, baking or cooking sessions.
  • Don’t assume that people are OK; everyone will have different fears, worries and degrees of resilience. Look out for the warning signs; working irregular hours, long hours, keeping their camera off during virtual meetings, a change in behaviour.

‘Promoting and supporting employee wellbeing is at the heart of CIPD’s purpose to champion better work and working lives because an effective workplace wellbeing programme can deliver mutual benefit to people, organisations, economies and communities.’

  • This is a very good contribution to the elucidation of what 'well-being' means in the context of the current circumstances, of the reciprocal employment relationship bargain and the practice of the human resources management profession.   It connects with the mutuality of duty of care and the importance of the job of the line manager in ensuring that well-being (doing well and feeling good).  This may be expressed by the following:

    "The line managers' duty in respect of well-being may be defined as: to maintain the conditions of life of the employees in their charge such that they will live and work contentedly and give their very best in the service of the firm, this benefiting both themselves and the firm” (Lecture Conference on Industrial Welfare, Balliol College, Oxford , September 11-15, 1936).

    Well-being can represent many things but needs to be continually advocated in the context of the employment relationship bargain and this has been advanced by practice and fresh knowledge that supports practice for some  time – which  is consistent with advancing the art and science of people management as defined in the institute's charter.

  • Great reflections Beth, thanks for sharing!