Helping employees focus on healthy living during the pandemic

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March 2020 saw the greatest global shift to homeworking it has ever seen. While businesses rapidly adapted to this situation, what wasn’t immediately obvious was the impact the pandemic would have on employees’ health and wellbeing. Ami Meech, Elekta’s Vice President of HR Americas and Oncology Informatics Solutions, discusses how her team quickly reacted to best support individuals in her business region.

Ami Meech and family

Before Covid-19 my job was a very people-facing role. I engaged with people on a day-to-day basis, and as humans, we know how to interpret other people’s body language. This all changed for me on Friday, March 13, 2020, as we were advised to work from home. Overnight, life became more structured. Instead of popping to see someone in the office, diaries were being booked to catch up, e-mail chains grew, and video calls became the norm – engagement had changed and understanding how people were truly feeling became far more difficult.

Clear communication

Mental health became a priority, so we had to learn to communicate better and in different ways to stay connected and in touch with our employees’ emotions. As one size doesn’t fit all we created several channels to do this including live panel discussions, bi-weekly newsletters, wellness challenges, webinars, virtual coffee mornings and messages from the leadership team. We have been determined to offer and share as much information as possible for the wellbeing of staff as we didn’t want to get to a stage where the effects were irreversible.

Supporting each other

We encourage people to take regular breaks. In an office environment, you would take time to grab a coffee in between meetings, so we actively tell people to take 10-to-15-minute breaks at home and not spend the day in back-to-back meetings. Go outside for a bit of fresh air or pick up the book you are reading for a short time – people need headspace for positive thinking.

Managers were also encouraged to check in with staff on an individual basis and simply ask, “How are you?”. Taking a minute to see how they were coping and asking if we could help became second nature. We also urged people to check in with their colleagues in the same manner.

The wellbeing of employees is embedded in my everyday life now and coronavirus has accelerated the awareness of mental health which is a good thing. People are openly talking about how they feel, and the topic has become less of a stigma.

The ‘next normal’

The longer the current situation persists so does our challenge of continuing to engage in fresh and different ways that appeal to people and help remove online fatigue. Business is important but the health and wellbeing of staff are just as significant. As we hopefully head towards the ‘next normal’, we are very aware we can’t rest on our laurels and expect everything to revert to how it was. There will be some social awkwardness, so we must ensure that the office environment remains a safe place. We are also aware that we are all individuals, so we have to find new and different ways of working. We will be looking globally at our colleagues and taking lessons from the best practices they are implementing.

Sharing our lessons

We have clearly discovered a lot along the way but if I were to offer my top learnings for other companies, they would be:

  • Give clear and transparent messages to staff so they can settle in an uncertain world. For an employee it makes them feel that they are a priority.
  • Show openness from the leadership team to set an example, display empathy and convey you are all human beings – no matter what your job title.
  • Offer personal support. Empower staff to be brave, speak up and know that it is ‘all right not to be all right’.
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