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If you’re an employer, nothing is more important than the health and wellbeing of your staff. This isn’t just because of ethical reasons, it’s also smart business sense. A company’s success or failure can often hinge on its levels of employee happiness (and in turn, their levels of motivation). 

When the focus is so often on hitting targets, meeting KPIs and delivering strong bottom line results, it can be easy to overlook areas like this. The overall mental health of your staff is difficult to quantify, but make no mistake, it’s crucial to any successful organisation.

This is even more important right now because of COVID-19. Employees are facing the stress of lockdowns, juggling home schooling, changes in their work routine and potentially shifting work circumstances for their partners.

Here are a few suggestions for initiatives to consider in order to foster an environment that reassures your employees that you are prioritising their mental health. 

1. Provide stigma-free mental health days

Everyone has taken a mental health day at some point – the problem is that most of us haven’t felt comfortable being honest about it and have had to do it under the excuse of physical illness. 

The reality is that mental health days are as valid as any other sick leave day. As an employer, it’s smart to tell your staff that you understand these are challenging and unusual times; so you are encouraging mental health days as and when required. This fosters trust, mutual respect and good will with your staff. You’ll probably find your employees use these days sparingly, but greatly appreciate that you let them know they were an option.

2. Be lenient, flexible and understanding

The research shows that trusting your employees to manage their own time is a far better way of maximising their productivity than micro-managing their every move. Now more than ever, it’s important for employers to give their staff the space and trust they need to manage their own responsibilities.  

3. Set up structures to make WFH as easy and comfortable as possible

With office workers in NSW entirely housebound at the moment (and many of their interstate equivalents doing a mix of home and office work), it’s the responsibility of every company to make this arrangement comfortable for people. 

This means ensuring that tech platforms are in place to facilitate easy video communication between colleagues; but it also might mean setting up free online exercise programs, resilience courses or even just setting aside regular mental health meetings to encourage open dialogue on how everyone is coping. These sessions could be quite fun and informal – perhaps it’s a weekly quiz, online Friday afternoon drinks or a regular story-swapping session in which the only purpose is to get together and chat about life outside work.

There are so many different methods that organisations can use to ensure staff stay happy, engaged and healthy. The important thing is to show them that you’ve thought about this, you’re aware of the challenges and you want to create an environment in which everyone feels comfortable discussing stress. 

The value of a workplace environment like this can’t be overstated. If you’re not proactive about looking after your employees’ wellbeing, it’s much harder to rectify problems with reactive measures after morale and mental health have slipped.