Managing Wellbeing in 2021

During 21st-30th June, World Wellbeing Week held its third year event. To commemorate the occasion, Talent in Logistics takes the time to consider guidance from CIPD (Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development) on how organisations can promote health and wellbeing.

In the wake of the pandemic, emphasis on wellbeing has never been higher, yet the findings of CIPD’s most recent report on the topic shows a long way to go towards making improvement. Key findings in the report include ongoing issues with presenteeism and leaveism despite the rise of wellbeing up the corporate agenda. Particular attention is given to the role of line managers in managing employee wellbeing, and the apparent dearth of support they are given in this crucial role.

According to CIPD, ‘Around three-fifths of organisations have a supportive framework to recruit, manage or retain people with a disability and/or long-term health condition,’ yet fewer than a third of organisations train and support the line managers in performing this responsibility.

Fortunately, CIPD itself offers a variety of resources and guidance line managers can use to tackle wellbeing issues. In their publication A Guide to Preventing and Reducing Stress at Work, recommended strategies including:

  1. Get to know your team better
  2. Lead by example to promote healthy working habits
  3. Review workloads, duties and responsibilities
  4. Reflect on your own management style
  5. Identify potential conflict and people issues and handle them early
  6. Discourage ‘presenteeism’ in your team
  7. Manage the mental health of your team while remote working.

While such resources will be of use to line managers, senior management’s involvement is crucial too, given the pernicious risks of poor wellbeing. CIPD’s guidance on the report recommends actively reviewing health and wellbeing activity; tackling the problem in a ‘joined-up’, strategic way; employing the use of wellbeing champions; and harnessing data. The importance of financial wellbeing policy is given particular emphasis.

Just as importantly, considering the dearth of training many managers receive, it’s just as important that senior managers are proactive in ensuring everyone in a position of responsibility has the tools they will need. This is something Talent in Logistics has covered before. According to CIPD, ‘A line manager’s behaviour, and the culture they create in their team, is the biggest influence on an employee’s work experience. By improving their management capabilities, managers can improve their own wellbeing as well as that of their team.’

The risk of poor wellbeing in managers themselves, particularly those promoted into middle management from a different role, is also worth bearing in mind. Authority often brings a feeling of increased responsibility both to the organisation and to those directly managed. This can lead to pressure, especially when the organisation is under strain. Unpalatable responsibilities like delivering critical feedback, reprimands, or, worst of all, the news that an employee no longer has a future at the company, can take a toll on a manager’s wellbeing. Feeling obligated for the needs of others, some struggle to meet their own.

Just as importantly, middle managers in particular often end up picking up a lot of work. Their position in the ‘gubbins’ gives them a Tiresias-like knowledge of the organisation: what is happening, where, how and why. There may be a temptation to ‘do it all’, picking up slack, troubleshooting, covering for others. And this comes on top of the often extensive and sometimes entirely new responsibilities that come with the role.

Newly elevated managers may also feel isolated. As one rises through the hierarchy, the dynamics of relationships and social-professional interactions shift. At worst the slippage can be tectonic, and new managers might have to deal with the animosity of a former peer. But even where support is warm, the change in the way communication works can feel distancing.

For all these reasons, senior managers and middle managers alike have a responsibility both to themselves and to those around them in the hierarchy. And sometimes, that responsibility is to take it easy. Practicing self-care, taking leave, delegating, and most of all, not overdoing it, are crucial to ensuring continued health, happiness and productivity. It can be tempting to be a work martyr, especially if we care about the people around us. But as the CIPD report makes clear, setting a positive example in self-care helps create a culture where others are empowered to do the same.