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Working from home: safeguarding your team’s well-being

Cheryl Lythgoe, head matron at Benenden Health, discusses how employers in the accountancy industry can effectively manage employee stress while working remotely during the lockdown period

Workplace stress is the negative reaction triggered by excess pressure at work, and can be particularly prominent in the finance sector.

With uncertainty over a predicted economic downturn after the Covid-19 pandemic, combined with the after-effects of Brexit, workers in the financial sector may be more prone to struggling with stress and poor mental health; as such, employers should take measures to ensure that they are supporting their team.

Our Mental Health in the Workplace report revealed nearly half of all employees across a range of sectors have suffered from work-related stress, with triggers including unmanageable workloads and financial worries – both of which are growing concerns for many under the current circumstances.

Additional research carried out by Benenden last year showed that employees working in the finance sector in particular identified regular medical checks, mental health support and providing flexible working to support family as the three most valuable benefits in a workplace health and well-being policy. And with more businesses requiring staff to work from home, employees could be experiencing more stress than ever, making it essential for businesses to implement measures to support their teams’ well-being and minimise any additional stresses triggered by the current situation.

With many businesses now working remotely, it can be harder to spot signs of stress in employees. One key indicator is colleagues working longer hours – or worse, over the weekend – to keep up with their workload as the line between home and work life becomes blurred. Subtle behavioural changes can be another sign of stress, so it is important to take note of employees who appear quieter or agitated on video calls.

The best approach is to regularly check in with individuals in your team. With less employer-employee visibility during this period, it is essential to make time for your teams to share any concerns and to safeguard the wellbeing of your workforce.

four steps

It is important employers take steps to minimise employees’ stress, especially throughout this period of home working. Here are four steps accountancy businesses can take to mitigate stress levels in teams throughout the lockdown period.

Offer specialist support. While internal support is great, the capabilities within businesses may not be enough to address the needs of your employees. There are specialist organisations employers can consult to provide the support and advice your teams need.

When appointing a service provider, you may want to consider whether they offer 24/7 telephone support, as this can be beneficial to employees who feel more comfortable discussing personal issues anonymously rather than with colleagues.

Encourage flexible working. Acknowledging the importance of work-life balance is essential in enabling employees to switch off at the end of each day. Encouraging employees to be flexible with their hours is key during remote working as this can significantly reduce the threat of stress and improve overall wellbeing, especially for those with caring commitments.

Respect your employees’ personal time. It is vital to recognise your employees’ need time away from work, especially as their workplace is now typically in their homes. Reminding teams to get away from their desk for their lunch, exercise daily, and switch off at the end of the day can have a positive impact on mental wellness. Encouraging teams to do these things daily also removes any perceived expectation that working outside office hours is required.

Start a lunchtime exercise club. As well as being important for your physical health, exercise can reduce stress, increase alertness and generate a higher level of cognitive function. Employers should encourage teams to exercise daily, with team sessions over video call being a great way to stay fit, well and connected to your colleagues during isolation.

While businesses face unprecedented challenges, even small steps can keep teams healthy, happy and productive throughout lockdown and beyond. By prioritising employee well-being now, businesses can put their teams in good stead for when life returns to normal.

Benenden Health has also produced a Coronavirus Hub on its website, with tips and information about how to stay healthy in isolation.

 

 

 

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