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  • Writer's picturelindsayannkohler

We're looking at you, employers, to help us deal

Updated: May 10, 2020

This post was originally published on my LinkedIn on May 6, 2020.

It’s quite timely that May is Mental Health Awareness Month, as even the most resilient of us are starting to wobble a bit as lockdown continues in many parts of the world. The expectation on businesses to help people cope is high. According to Edelman’s 2020 Trust Barometer, which they recently updated to account for the COVID-19 crisis, after providing economic relief and support, the next highest expectation on businesses was to contribute their area of expertise in addressing the challenges arising from the pandemic to “help people cope.” In fact, this expectation on businesses’ responsibility was second only to the expectation people have of their governments to help them cope. That’s a lot of responsibility, if you ask me.

What does that look like in practice? Well, it depends on how you define “cope.” For these purposes, let’s define “cope” in terms of improving mental health. When things are not so great, our reactions to the pressures around us can manifest as stress, anxiety, depression and more. Businesses need to monitor how people are feeling and what support they actually want. For example, I’m seeing teams become much more nimble with “in-the-moment” sentiment checks…which leads me to the next consideration.

How do we define (and measure) what being “well” means? It’s important to get this right, as good health is regularly reported to be the most important and largest factor in life satisfaction. We can look to what policy makers use when they want to see what impact their policies will have on people’s happiness. Granted, they may often be more focused on mitigating misery versus creating happiness, but since I’m lucky enough to work with employee engagement teams whose goal is to create happiness, we’ll focus attention there.

The art of measuring happiness is called subjective wellbeing valuation and I don’t think it’s practical for non-academics within businesses to try to do this on their own. (Yes, I know how that sounded but trust me on this). But what you can do is take learnings from different wellbeing measurement approaches to inform the surveys you design. Consider asking people what matters, and what will continue to matter. Ask them to reconstruct their last week and report how they were feeling and how their time was spent for more immediate feedback versus a longer-term, point-in-time lookback. Part of happiness is belonging – are you asking how strongly people feel ties with their community and colleagues? Ask about resilience – do they feel like they bounce back after setbacks? Essentially, think about all of the things that tie into happiness and ask questions about those, not just “What’s your mood been like?”

How are businesses helping people cope? For some, it means recognizing the signs of isolation and loneliness in their colleagues and reaching out. It’s creating platforms (such as bespoke microsites) that all employees — furloughed or not, remote or frontline — can use. We also explored the impact of loneliness on businesses in our 2020 World Changers Report, which includes more tips on addressing loneliness specifically.

Others are investing in novel approaches to wellbeing. With one client, we helped develop a whole suite of resources around dealing with uncertainty, stress, building resilience, mindfulness and more. These resources went beyond the general tip sheets or webinars that, while important, are not always the most engaging. Therefore, bespoke quizzes, games and other interactive experiences to get high engagement were also created.

Daily happiness reminders and wellbeing tricks pushed out via the channel that’s best fit for purpose are getting good uptake and response from employees. One easy way to get your daily dose of happiness tips is through Created by The London School of Economics Professor Paul Dolan, author of Happiness by Design and Happy Ever After, you can easily sign up for evidenced-based tips on happiness.

That’s just the tip of the iceberg. The key point is: businesses ARE responding. It’s been a delight to see the innovation and urgency in developing wellbeing support. Because ultimately, we humans are a resilient and adaptive bunch, and we’re figuring it out — together.

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