How effective will we be?

The question is not if or where we work but how effective will we be?

For years we have been talking about employee engagement, mental well-being, motivation. I covered similar topics in my previous blogs.

• 7 steps to an untapped marketing source. Right under our nose. Employee advocacy
How to pull people up the engagement ladder

Covid19 has amplified this issue by 10x. If employees are not in a healthy state of mind, it does not matter where they work, they will struggle to be effective.
We have been locked down for 2 months. My wife and I both run our own business from home so home working is normal. The one who may not be too familiar with the experience is my 13-year-old son. Halfway through the confinement we were woken up one night with my son suddenly gasping for air and in significant respiratory distress. In a calm panic, we helped our son catch his breath but were anxious to know what happened. We phone the emergency doctor and they suggested to bring him through to the hospital to make sure there was no serious issue like an asthma attack or some airway obstruction. It turned out to be an anxiety attack. A very scary and stressful experience for both my son and the parents. A healthy boy suddenly experiencing an anxiety attack is something we can all explain in the current context but what caught us by surprise is we thought he was handling the Covid19 situation.

We can think everything is well and we are all mentally strong but how do you know?

Covid19 and confinement have a mental impact on all of us. WHO and Adam Grant, Professor of Management and Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School say some people will suffer from post-traumatic stress, and some post-traumatic growth, in which people realize their inner strength and a deeper sense of gratitude. Fundamentally, how we manage it is a personal journey. There are many blogs, posts and articles flying across the social platforms highlighting the importance of self-understanding and wellbeing. However, we are not sure how far we should go in helping employees at work. Even when we think everything is under control we don’t really know until something happens.
Self-confinement has obliged us to confront ourselves and if we are not that type of person or you don’t know how to have that conversation with yourself it can eventually manifest in different ways. Just like my son discovering his mental state through panic and breathlessness.
Thinking how your people will work or what working conditions to apply under new confinement rules is only part of the problem. The big work needs to be done around employees’ mindset and awareness of self.
Nowdays everyone seems to be an expert in meditation, wellness and WFH. With hundreds of solutions being offered for free. Some companies invite employees to follow an app or even implemented a hotline should they need. These are good first steps but are not enough. If a company does not place this as a high priority, most employees will not take active action to look after their mental health and simply brush this off as “I don’t have time”.
Companies should give all their employees the chance to have effective tools, programmes or mindfulness sessions to get their minds in the right place.
Here are some tips to consider in building your mental wellness programme …
•   Ignoring or hoping it will not affect your people is as good as thinking Covid19 will just disappear. It’s possible but very high risk.

•  Time – the number one reason why people don’t participate in wellness or mind awareness programmes is that companies don’t actively and meaningfully give employees the time.

•  Feeling safe – opening up and engaging with your work colleagues on a personal level makes us feel vulnerable, a skill set not easily accepted in a profit-driven culture. We should all feel safe at work both mentally and physically.

•  One wellness programme does not fit all.

•  Culture is important. Some cultures are more comfortable than others in self-awareness.

•  Use the right language for each country. Language helps get to the soul quicker.

•  We are dealing with your most valued assets, don’t think a yoga class or an app will be enough.

•  Use certified professionals and via live sessions. Would you trust your son’s mental health to a YouTube link?

•  Group sessions are effective in a business context.

•  This should be a long term and on-going programme.

•  Everyone is impacted including the CEO.

Regardless of your mental wellness strategy, companies should not underestimate how this unprecedented event has impacted us all mentally and the direct effect it will have on our quality of work no matter where we are.
Marc Bouvron is Fonder of A social Impact Agency helping companies unlock their human potential through social and environmental programmes.