With the lockdowns, circuit breaker measures and other restrictions imposed by Governments globally to curb the Covid-19 pandemic, it has become increasingly evident that mental health and emotional health have a great impact on our day to day lives and even on our physical health. So much so, that a greater number of organisations and companies are increasingly focusing on the mental and emotional well-being of their employees because it is clear that if employees are not emotionally and/or mentally healthy, it will impact both their personal life as well as their performance at work.

Coupled with unpredictable working conditions across the global workforce, employee burnout is increasing and resignations are on the rise, with the U.S. seeing as many as 11.5 million workers resigning from their jobs between April to June of 2021.

To combat this, businesses are rapidly prioritising workforce wellbeing by appointing Chief Health and Chief Medical Officers to their boardrooms, with the mandate to build a culture of health in the workplace. Before the pandemic hit, employers tended to limit their roles to accident coverage for workplace injuries, parental-leave policy and the yearly flu vaccinations. During the earlier stages of the Covid-19 pandemic, the primary responsibility was employee and workplace safety. Now the focus is shifting towards the nexus between wellbeing and productivity.

Taking the lead, the World Economic Forum is launching a new Chief Health/Medical Officers community. which will serve as an avenue for sharing best practices on topical concerns, understanding which investments actually impact workforce performance (including innovation, collaboration, etc.), and understanding how these investments can be understood more broadly as part of an organisation’s sustainability framework, such as ESG reporting. This, in turn, can support businesses as they too navigate this quagmire. Together, chief health/medical officers can shape a common vision to support best-in-class responses to the pandemic and overall care and wellbeing of the workforce, as the future of work continues to change.

Below are six takeaways from corporations that have taken steps to deal with emotional and mental health concerns.

  1. Acting fast, community engagement and harnessing technology

Elton Dorkin, Head of Health for Anglo-American, spoke about the importance of acting quickly. He recognised the vital role his organisation played in so many, often remote, communities close to their mining operations and the importance of engaging with these communities so that they could continue to provide and extend a wide range of essential services and equipment, both during the pandemic and into the vital economic recovery phase.

Most importantly, Mr Dorkin recognised the vital importance of harnessing technology saying that they made extensive use of health technologies, informatics and analytics in their approach, giving the example of the reconfiguration of smart watches to help enforce social distance and help with contact tracing.

2. Clarity and Consistency

Richard JL Heron, Vice-President Health and Chief Medical Officer of BP highlighted the critical importance organisations can play in both protecting and enhancing the health and wellbeing of workers, customers, and the communities of which they are a part, adding that with multiple data providers, varied index designs and methodologies, there is more to be done bring clarity and consistency to measures of health and wellbeing commitment.

He touched on BP’s wellbeing index which identifies trends, training and support programmes in place and support community health projects in many locations.

3. Being holistic in approach

Huma Abbasi, General Manager Health and Medical of Chevron Corporation pointed out that where health issues are concerned, it is important not to take a siloed approach. Rather, Chevron made it a priority to ensure that health and wellbeing resources that holistically target stress and work-life balance, address personal resilience, and aid workers and their family members needing assistance were available.

4. Investing in employee wellbeing

Jen Fisher, Chief Wellbeing Officer of Deloitte stressed that a resilient workforce was critical to an organisation’s success – and building a resilient workforce means investing in employee wellbeing.

According to Fisher, Deloitte believes that wellbeing goes beyond just physical health and also includes mental and emotional health, personal purpose, and financial wellbeing. In recognition of this, Deloitte created flexible and inclusive programmes and benefits, like its wellbeing subsidy that can be used for purchases and services such as meditation instruction, fitness classes, massages, scuba diving, golf course range fees, and more. Deloitte also understands that the programmes and benefits can only go so far if you don’t have a culture that truly supports and encourages wellbeing at work.

As such, it has created a network called the Wellbeing Wizards, which spans throughout the organisation to drive cultural change. This network is made up of employees who have a passion for well-being who are empowered to share knowledge and engage their teams and colleagues in wellbeing-related activities and learning.

5. Identifying the key metrics to well-being

Monte Masten, Chief Medical Officer at Marsh & McLennan Agency said that in order for employers to support their employees, they need to know what the key objectives and goals were.

To that end, Monte Masten has partnered on employee communications and support for behavioural health resources; implemented a wellbeing dashboard that incorporates key metrics (business, health, outcomes) that can help support the organisation as it moves to create a sustainable culture around the four pillars of wellbeing (physical, mental, social, financial); helped implement training in mental health first aid for executives and managers/supervisors; published white papers on the business case to invest in mental health as a competitive advantage; and finally, used data analytics to study the health and financial value of the investment on programmes that have been implemented.

Photo by Kaboompics .com from Pexels

6. Providing accurate and reliable information

The pandemic has seen the unfortunate side effect of inaccurate and unreliable information flooding the internet. To support employees, Antonio Tataranni, Chief Medical Officer or PepsiCo highlighted the role that PepsiCo’s internal “COVID-19 Facts: Ask the Doctor” video series played. These videos showcased infectious disease specialists and other experts that helped answer employee questions about the coronavirus in real-time and kept a pulse on what concerns were most pressing for associates.

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