With the second lockdown looming here in the UK, many are feeling quite apprehensive about what the future holds. During the first lockdown, many welcomed the change from usual habits, reveling in the amazing weather whilst being able to stay at home. However, with Winter fast approaching and with that the dark nights and miserable weather, many will be finding it challenging to keep their spirits high and energised whilst working from home. It is, therefore, crucial for all businesses to ensure that the mental health and wellbeing of their employees is the number one priority going forward. There are no "ifs, buts or whys", it is imperative that your employees are prioritised during these challenging times. 

Everybody will experience the lockdown differently, with many facing daily challenges that have the potential to negatively impact their health. Whether it be from an increased workload, changing responsibilities, a new day of working or juggling extra responsibilities, the result has seen a greater focus on mental health and wellbeing, particularly from a leadership perspective. As we begin another month of lockdown, it is increasingly important that leaders take steps to transform their approach on leading their teams and ensure that their mental health and wellbeing remains at the forefront. 

Here's 3 ways I believe you can prioritise the mental health & wellbeing of your employees:

1. Support Your Employees & Be Understanding

For some people, moving to remote working was a challenging adjustment and this may very well continue with lockdown looming. So, an extra level of understanding and compassion towards each team member's personal situation is needed. It is important to ask yourself whether your employees have everything they need to be happy and productive. Do they have the right level of support, are there aspects of their role that need to be adapted to help accommodate for their change in working, will they need additional support to ensure they are happy and can perform without any pressure or stress. Opening a two way dialogue with each team member will allow you to create a space for them where they can raise their concerns and show vulnerability. It is important to be empathetic and listen, relate to your team members concerns and take a genuine interest in your employees as people and consciously put yourself in their position. Your team will then feel comfortable approaching you for support.  There is nothing wrong with being human and showing that you are vulnerable and struggle at times too. It will only make it easier for your team to approach you and share their worries. 

2. Encourage Connectivity & Bring Your Team Together

With the UK and many countries going into a second lockdown, many people can feel isolated and alone. Ensuring that everyone feels included becomes a lot more important during these difficult times, especially with people working remotely. Therefore, it is important to try and connect your team as much as possible. You can, for example, hold a daily coffee break where team members can take 15 minutes out of their day to speak about how they feel and discuss things non-work related. Not only will this allow people to feel connected, it will encourage people to take breaks throughout the day as not to burn themselves out. There is also the possibility of using such interactions as an opportunity to cement your company values, as well as celebrating your achievements as a team and reminding everyone how much their hard work is appreciated. There really is no excuses with the advancement in technology and with Zoom and Teams at your disposal, it is important to arrange as much connectivity as possible to keep employees happy. 

3. Facilitate Open & Honest Communications

Organisations have taken proactive steps to ensure their staff do not feel isolated during these unprecedented times. One way this is being achieved is through increasing the regularity of communications. It is important to share good news from across the business, make sure your team are up to date with the latest developments as a business and communicate best practices going forward. Keeping your team in regular contact will help to lessen any anxiety that may feel about being left in the dark or not knowing what the latest on-goings on within the business. However, it is important to not constantly ask for updates on their work and fill them in on what you have been doing. As a leader, make communication two-way by keeping them informed about the good things across the team and the company. Let them know they're valued and that you appreciate their hard work during challenging times. This will cultivate a sense of belonging and keep your team inspired to work hard. But most importantly, take the time to call and speak about more than just work. Ask them how they are doing, how they are coping, what steps have they taken to keep themselves active and mentally healthy. These questions allow your team to communicate honestly and develop trust, knowing that they're cared for and they are in good hands. 

Overall, I believe now is the time where mental health must be prioritised. These times can be difficult for those isolated and alone, so we must all come together to ensure that people feel safe and mentally healthy. Remember to check up on your team mates, speak to them and genuinely listen to them. Don't be afraid to ask if they're okay more than once - let them talk and let them feel safe. We must all stick together during these times and as a leader, you must make sure that your team's mental health and wellbeing is really number one.