The last year has been one of change, turbulence and uncertainty both locally and globally.
One area where we are seeing unwelcome changes is an increase in employees presenting with problems associated with stress.
Surprisingly perhaps many of those are senior people who have considerable power in the organisation but feel unable to look after themselves adequately when the pressure is on. We have seen executives regularly working 16-hour days plus weekends, unable to turn off their email, missing holidays and generally pushing themselves to the brink of physical and psychological breakdowns.
So, what is the role for HR in this scenario? it’s definitely not polishing up the policy cabinet! There is nothing wrong with good governance and policy frameworks but action is required quickly.
Ask yourself the following questions about your organisation
- Is there a culture of presenteeism, do people feel proud wearing their long hours and exhaustion as a badge of honour?
- Do senior leaders model a balanced life or showcase their harassed and harried lifestyle as the one required to get on?
- Do managers receive training on creating healthy workplaces allowing staff to work in a range of different ways so that they can perform at their best.
- Are supportive managers showcased as high performers or are other attributes rated higher?
- Is the organisation clear that all employee’s mental health is viewed as being as important as their physical health?
- Do employees know who to contact and what to do if they begin to experience concerns about their levels of stress.
It’s really about talking to and listening to staff at all levels in the organisation, bringing values to life rather than the love letters organisations write to themselves and then ignore.
It’s not necessarily trying to police the hours people work, it’s about identifying when staff feel they have no option but to work in a particular way that causes them damage.
Having realistic approaches to resourcing is key. As is understanding that people have differing approaches to work some will always want to work long hours and that’s fine if they are happy and relaxed about their approach. Outcomes should be key rather than inputs and managers developed to explore a range of options for working practices and styles.
We continually look for strategic thinkers and innovators who can identify future needs and solutions. Then we chain them to desks and expect them to come up with brilliant ideas whilst staring at a screen. We know that’s not how it works. I challenge HR to help create workplaces that set our minds free.
Here’s a few suggestions
- Give employees loads more freedom about when, where and how they work
- Measure outcomes not inputs religiously
- Value and reward the performance of managers based on the wellbeing of their staff.
- Understand what leaders are modelling and how this is received by staff
- Give staff what they need to do their job well
- Create opportunities for thinking away from the office
- Value the differences in people and their working styles
When optimum mental and physical health are valued equally in our organisations we will be making progress.
Article by Angela O’Connor – CEO, The HR Lounge (find out more about Angela)