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The road to recovery and resilience: exposing workplace pleasanteeism

By Shaun Williams, CEO & Founder, Lime Global Ltd

The COVID-19 pandemic has left many feeling less resilient than ever before. From concerns over physical health, to not seeing friends and family for months on end, understandably people are feeling more vulnerable than they were 18 months ago.

And, with resilience – the ability to bounce back in the face of adversity – at an all-time low, the knock-on effect has been one of poor mental health for UK workers, many of whom will soon be returning to the workplace as restrictions continue to ease.

Despite people suffering behind closed doors, our recent research found that too many people are unable to express how they’re really feeling, with ‘pleasanteeism’ – the pressure felt by many to put on a brave face – plaguing UK workforces and undermining crucial efforts to promote an open dialogue about mental health at work.

In fact, our recent report Keeping up Appearances: How Pleasanteeism is Eroding Resilience revealed that despite 40% of UK workers feeling less resilient now than they did before the pandemic, over half (51%) feel like they have to put on a brave face for their colleagues and nearly one in five (19%) are worried about their stress being visible to others when they return to the workplace.

While the pandemic has undoubtedly had a negative impact on the lives of many, findings from our research showed that COVID-19 has shifted people’s expectations, and rightly so. According to the findings, 81% of us now want our employers to support our mental wellbeing, and 40% of us would even look for a new job if they didn’t do so.

If one thing is clear, it’s that allowing workplace pleasanteeism to go unaddressed will have a damaging impact on not only the mental health of thousands, but to the success of many UK businesses as they attempt to upscale in the post-pandemic era.

So, what can organisations do to meet the changing needs and expectations of the UK’s workforce?

Now more than ever, business leaders have a real responsibility to open up the dialogue and address their staffs’ mental health concerns at work. Luckily, there are a wide range of quick and simple steps that employers can take to place a greater focus on mental wellbeing in the workplace and, in turn, become an employer of choice in an increasingly competitive talent market.

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Grant your staff the opportunity to regularly take a step back

With remote working encroaching on work-life balance for many of us, companies need to actively encourage employees to step back and take the time to find some headspace. We’re all guilty of working outside of hours every now and again, but that time to extract oneself, calm down and recalibrate is essential during busy, high-pressure days. Simple initiatives such as a ‘free hour’ during the day that can’t be filled with meetings can really help people to reset and build their resilience.

Suggest selfcare initiatives and introspection

One thing to consider is that mental health and wellbeing initiatives don’t always need to be led by the business, and simple suggestions for small, mindful practices that employees can do in their own time can go a long way. Exercise, meditation, yoga – all forms of selfcare are positive steps on the road to increased resilience. There is also an abundance of free wellbeing apps that don’t require a subscription or costly commitments, so why not take some time to point employees in the right direction?

Consider mental health tools, training and services

There are a wide range of workplace training courses, services and tools available, all of which can be useful to not only spot potential mental health concerns across the business but learn how to approach them. In fact, when asked nearly one in five (18%) of our respondents said that they would like their employer to support them with access to counselling, and a further 16% would like access to tools that help them recognise what support they might need with their mental wellbeing. Implementing a couple of easy tools and solutions that support resilience in the long-term could be a much-needed approach for improving employees’ mental health and wellbeing.

We know that there has been a lot of discussion around mental health and resilience in the workplace, but it’s become increasingly clear that one crucial part of the puzzle is still missing – real, tangible change.  And, allowing this brave face culture to go unsolved will be detrimental to individuals and businesses alike, as the UK adjusts to the new reality of learning to live with COVID-19.

It is vital that every organisation takes action. It doesn’t need to be costly or complicated, even the smallest business can take steps to support their staff, to talk about their concerns, improve their mental health and build resilience through real, practical and easy actions. And the time to start is now.

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