Mylo Kaye

I recently read that more than one-third of employees in the UK suffer from worse mental health now than they did before the pandemic.

These figures should make any business owner or manager re-think their approach to the mental health of their employees. After all, our employees are such fundamental parts of our business, if they’re not happy, how can we ever expect our business to succeed?

One of the biggest reasons for this rise in mental health-related issues is the ever-changing ‘normal’ we’ve collectively experienced over the pandemic.

The uncertainty around these times is wreaking havoc on the mental health of our workforce – and it doesn’t take a genius to figure out the problem.

One minute the Government is making us tell our employees to get back to work and enforce restrictions. Then the next minute, all restrictions lift and ‘business as usual’ resumes. It’s hard to keep up, both for us and our employees.

Other contributing factors to poor mental health in the workplace are too much change, unclear communication, and employees not feeling safe to discuss mental health issues with employers.

From what I’m reading, it’s clear to see that we need to do better.

We’ve all been through a tough time since Covid, and the retail industry has been dealt blow after blow, but I believe that we can come back stronger. However, to do this, we’re going to rely on our employees.

Here are some of the ways I think we can prioritise employee wellbeing and foster a much more open and supportive work environment.

Give your employees a voice

As managers, we’d like to think that we know our employees well enough to notice when something is wrong – but unfortunately, this isn’t always the case.

If your employees don’t feel they’re able to speak up and raise concerns, you’ll never be made aware of issues, even if they’re being felt by the majority of your workforce.

The only way you can get to the root of mental health concerns in your business is to actually ask.

Send out anonymous surveys where employees can raise concerns, ask them what could be improved in your workplace, encourage line managers to conduct meetings to support those who struggle with their mental health.

There are a lot of things that you can do that aren’t time-consuming or expensive but can make a huge difference in employee wellbeing.

Build connections with your employees and adopt an ‘open door’ policy

We’re all busy people, but I think we should all start blocking out time in our weeks to build connections with our employees.

Go into your shops in the area, talk to the people who are the face of your business and show that you genuinely care about how they are feeling.

In the office, you could try and adopt an ‘open door’ policy, where you encourage your staff to come and speak to you about anything they are worried about.

You could even have a drop-in session one morning a week where employees can come and talk to you.

Offer flexibility

Since people are returning to work after long periods of being at home, flexibility is going to be something our employees want even more from us as employers.

Giving our staff the chance to work flexible hours, accommodate their lifestyles and have more autonomy over their work is going to boost employee morale.

The more of a say we give our employees regarding how they work, the more motivated and productive they well be – this is ultimately the best solution for us as it will help our businesses continue to tick along smoothly.

Provide time for staff to work on their mental health

Finally, if an employee is having a hard time with their mental health, we shouldn’t expect them to ‘grin and bear it’. Giving the opportunity to book off mental health days, without any judgement, will give them the time they need to relax and recuperate.

If you do have employees that are taking these days off, don’t forget about them just because they’re not in work. Offer to send them resources that could help them, see if you can get them in touch with a mental health specialist (with their permission, of course) and check in on them so they don’t feel isolated.

As we start to fully enter 2022, we have a real opportunity to work on our company culture and improve our staff’s wellbeing for the better.

What are the things you’re going to put into place in your retail business to improve mental health?