Improving workforce wellbeing: the internal comms role

Social feeds and newspapers are all saturated in talk about workforce wellbeing, from bland tips like drink more water and go for a walk, to stories of burnout and stress. To make an impact, internal comms departments have to be careful not to add to this ‘bland noise’ by being clear on the critical role they play.

As productivity is so closely tied to health and wellbeing, a business can be judged by the health of its workforce. The sad reality is that the health of the world workforce has declined since the pandemic, with a whopping 67% of workers believing they have become more burnt out over the course of the pandemic.

Workforce wellbeing: the context

It’s easy to see where this burnout is coming from. While working from home clearly has its benefits, there’s also been talk about whether employees are working from home or living at work. 61% of remote workers say they are finding it more difficult to ‘unplug’ from work during off hours and 37% of employed people saying they are currently working longer hours than usual. This burnout will clearly take its toll and the first action employees have been taking is moving jobs.

In fact, burned out employees are 2.6 times as likely to be actively seeking a different job so if your business is struggling to retain or battling to recruit new talent, tackling burnout is a very good place to start. But even when employees aren’t ready to leave, it’s important to understand that in the UK more than half of all working days lost due to health issues are related to stress, depression, and anxiety.

If you organisation is invested in the concept of improving and supporting employing wellbeing, the key question is, where do you start? Pre-pandemic fitting out an on-site gym or more watercoolers was seen as a good start, but unfortunately it didn’t tackle one of the root causes of the issue: stigma.

Where internal comms departments can play a huge role is in opening up the dialogue and improving psychological safety in the workplace. One of the best remedies for poor mental health is being surrounded by and connected to a strong and supportive community (like colleagues) and yet there’s a huge stigma involved in discussing mental health in the workplace. Just 14% of people feel they could talk about common mental health issues in the workplace, compared to 42% who feel comfortable to talk about their physical health problems. 71% of people still worry about telling their employer about a mental health condition for fear of getting a negative response, and 47% of employees believe that disclosing mental health issues to their employer would negatively impact their career.

Effective anti-stigma strategies

Overcoming stigma is a great starting place as the goal for internal comms campaigns. Here’s some effective anti-stigma strategies:

  • Share statistics on mental health to help normalise and combat stigma
  • Talk about physical and mental health at the same time
  • Open up the conversation, including talking about reducing stigma
  • Share wellbeing stories from within the organisation
  • Involve leaders and managers in the communications
  • Keep wellbeing on the agenda; like health and safety it’s not a one hit wonder

Getting wellbeing on the internal comms agenda, and keeping it there

If you feel your organisation is still at the beginning of the journey to becoming a psychologically safe environment, it can be hard to know where to start. Equally, if you have successfully started the wellbeing conversation but now aren’t sure how to keep it on the agenda, here’s some tips for ongoing communication:

  • Use celebration days to keep wellbeing front of mind, check out our handy calendar
  • Signpost to help, it’s important to keep up the reminders on how to access things like employee assistance programmes or mental health first aid
  • Share resources, and you don’t always have to create your own as there’s a steady stream of professional resources being shared, like for April’s Stress Awareness Month.
  • Provide guidance for spotting early signs of mental health concerns in colleagues and how to help
  • Run competitions with wellbeing-related prizes, like self-care items (scented candles, gratitude journals, art sets etc)
  • Integrate wellbeing into your values, for example if one of your values is ‘doing the right thing’, show employees what that looks like in wellbeing terms
  • Get leaders to be authentic in their communication, if they’re taking a few days off to recharge, ask them to be vocal about the importance of looking after their own health
  • Share wellbeing stories from around the business, even if you feel they must start off anonymous they are a great step towards reducing stigma

If you’d like to find out about how we help businesses with wellbeing comms campaigns that engage and inspire workforces, get in touch.