Let’s talk about mental health

When I first wrote about the importance of good internal communications in 2020, it was at the beginning of the pandemic. Like many, I had no idea how long we’d be working from home or the toll it would take on our mental well-being. Now, when you search for top communications trends for 2021, internal comms is at the top of the list, as is the importance of talking about mental health.

With the pandemic moving workforces to decentralized locations and the strain on our mental well-being, having strong communications with and among employees has never been more critical.

Here are 4 tips to help your workforce’s mental and physical well-being:

Mental wellness. Let’s face it—2020 was one sucker punch after another. There aren’t many that can withstand that amount of upheaval without sustaining emotional scars along the way. From financial insecurity, health concerns, the strain of working from home and looking after kids, isolation….you get it, and the list could go on. As an employer, this is the time to check-in with your HR and Communications teams and get them to start working together. There are numerous resources available, but you can also start simple. As the CEO, head of HR or Manager of Team Awesome now’s the time to start the conversation about how it’s OK not to be OK. Talk about some of the struggles you’ve had the last 12 months and some of the things you’ve done to help manage and improve your mental well-being.

Connection. With most of us working from home, it’s tough to have those water cooler conversations and make connections with our staff and colleagues. One way is to use the channels that are being used operationally for a bit of personal chit-chat. For example, on Monday mornings, share something interesting that you learned/did/read/saw over the weekend and ask others to share in a #general or #watercooler Slack channel. Or on a Friday afternoon, stop work an hour early and gather for a virtual drink in kumospace. I recently saw a post on social media saying that their employer organized an online cooking class with the staff. Not the same as being together, but still a great way to connect with colleagues and socialize in a COVID-safe way.

Be Authentic. For communications to work, they need to be from the heart and meaningful at all levels. If you’re a leader, you set the tone. Show that it’s essential and part of the organizational culture to take the time to develop internal communications. Your direct reports will follow suit and take the time with theirs. This post from LinkedIn is an excellent example of someone doing it right.

“my boss just called and said ‘how are you’ and I reflexively said ‘fine’ and she like ‘NOPE, START OVER, I am not fine and you are not fine, let’s have a real conversation, how are you’ and I was like ‘super terrible’ and she like ‘MUCH BETTER’.”

Physical wellness. Working from home is very convenient. In theory, it offers many opportunities to add physical fitness into your daily routine. However, the reality is that instead, for many, working from home has led to a more sedentary lifestyle—no more walking to the bus stop or cycling to work. No more walks to the coffee shops. No more walking to a colleague’s office. Nothing. Nada. Zilch. We sit in front of our computers for hours, sneak into the kitchen for a quick bite to eat and then back to our computer–this is not helping us achieve our 10,000 steps.

Here are a few ways you can help create a more active culture:

  • Hold check-in meetings over the phone instead of zoom and encourage your staff to take the call on a walk. Even better, meet up in person for a walk, assuming it’s within the COVID guidelines for where you live.
  • Remind staff, and yourself, to block off an hour for lunch in their calendars. And before you say you’re all too busy, here’s a great article from HBR on the importance of taking that lunch hour break.
  • Send out links just before lunch for online yoga or fitness classes to encourage staff to get moving.

The takeaway from this post should be that internal communications shouldn’t just be about letting everyone know about the latest sales figures and corporate gobbly-gook. It’s about finding ways of connecting with your team, sometimes on Teams, and doing so authentically. Your HR and Communications folks can help you with resources and wordsmithing, but you need to be the one that sets the tone. And if you’re stuck and don’t have the resources at your organization to help you, send us an email: naomip (at) nwpconsulting (dot) net we’d love to help you.