The hot topic in many company meetings right now is a focus on the return to work revolution. For many, the question is no longer “when do we return to the office”, but rather “how do we go about returning to the office”. And, any company that isn’t asking the question is going to run into difficulty because their employees are certainly thinking it!
The coronavirus pandemic has given many of us cause to think twice about taking our health for granted – and that applies to mental well-being too.
The pandemic continues to take its toll both physically and mentally, on billions of people worldwide. Recent data from the United States suggests that 47% of workers have seen their mental health deteriorate since the pandemic began. This figure could be the same or even higher for South Africans who have lived through a major lockdown and months of restricted business and leisure activities.
If you plan to return to work and reopen your commercial space in 2021, the next few months could be an excellent opportunity to do so in a way that emphasises employee health and well-being.
Here are some guidelines that will help ensure a kinder, more productive working environment post pandemic.
Understanding the importance of mental well-being
The huge media coverage surrounding COVID over the past 18 months is justified given the pandemic’s devastating effects, but emphasising physical health alone won’t be enough for employers going forward.
Mental well-being is a crucially important aspect of overall health because it affects several key areas of our personal and professional lives. These include:
- The quality of our interactions with loved ones, friends and colleagues contributes hugely to our happiness levels and helps to reduce stress.
- An employee or member of management who is in good mental health will have the energy and fortitude to deal with the many challenges that arise in the course of a given day at work.
- Mental health issues can adversely affect our ability to perform at work. This creates a vicious cycle of poor performance causing increased stress which results in even worse performance in turn.
- Showing up at work and leaving at the end of the day is vastly different from spending a productive six or eight hours at the office.
- Mental health has a tremendous impact on our ability to focus, learn, and collaborate as we work hard to solve problems and achieve excellence in everything we do.
- Employees who are in suboptimal mental health tend to take more sick leave every year and may be at greater risk of contracting other illnesses due to high stress levels that can suppress the immune system
Given the importance of mental health, it’s surprising to note how few companies have developed a comprehensive overall well-being program for their employees.
As the urgent priority of physical health begins to be resolved with an albeit slow rollout of COVID vaccines, companies will need to take a closer look at their employees’ emotional needs and how to support them in living well-rounded, productive lives.
Putting mental health first is good for business
A caring company is more likely to attract and retain talent in the long run. Here are some guidelines for businesses that plan to make wellness a priority.
A gradual return to work revolution
Working from home may not be ideal as workers miss the routine and collaboration at the office, but it’s also true that many of us have gotten used to remote productivity over the past two years.
As a caring employer you’ll want to transition slowly back to the office. Allowing your team to work remotely a few days a week with 4 to 8 days a month voluntary office days will empower them to modify their work habits gradually rather than in an instant. The option of working from home for those employees who suffer from ill health or co-morbidities, or simply have a fear of returning to the office shows that the company has empathy and supports their concerns.
Early Fridays and a strict policy of respecting weekends can also go far in this regard.
Embrace feedback from all corners of your business
A management culture that allows employees to share their concerns and reach out to management at difficult times doesn’t just reflect the philosophy of kindness.
It also means that management will be able to pick up on potential HR problems before they grow out of proportion and implement effective solutions to support all employees.
Focus on mental wellness – not mental illness
When implementing policies related to the psychological well-being of your employees it’s a good idea to foster a culture of support and well-being for everyone involved in the company.
Your management team will also need to avoid pointing out or potentially ostracising staff members with mental health challenges.
Society has become more accepting of conditions such as depression, anxiety, and bipolar syndrome in recent years – but there may still be a stigma attached to team members who suffer from these conditions.
The last thing you want is for employees to be ostracised by less sensitive or overly competitive co-workers. It’s especially important for managers to spearhead this culture and set an example for all team members to be supportive and accepting of each other.
Create a business ecosystem where everyone can thrive
A company that encourages good mental health will reap the rewards in the form of an excellent reputation and financial results.
A major factor in the happiness and well-being of employees in the office space is the physical work environment.
Comfortable property with plenty of green spaces and a layout that’s both collaborative and socially distanced can be an essential factor in the success of any employee wellness program.
The Commercial Space team is proud to offer a wide selection of modern premium office space throughout Cape Town designed with the needs of 21st-century companies in mind.
Contact us today to browse our portfolio and begin your successful commercial property search.