Thriving through Turbulent Times

  • December 14, 2020

Next in our series of HR Insights we focus on some of the current challenges’ facing organisations around the mental health and wellbeing of their employees.

When the pandemic first hit the priority for most businesses was putting robust plans and systems in place to support remote working. With working from home now pretty much the norm, we thought it would be useful to gain some insights into what longer term strategies organisations should be putting in place to support employees and line managers with their mental health and overall wellbeing.

We spoke to Mike Thompson – who runs a wellbeing company that advises organisations around wellbeing and engagement. Additionally we spoke to two senior HR professionals, Anna Lees Head of Engagement & Growth at Refinitiv and Jonathan Mayes, Head of HR for Technology, Operations & Central Functions and Head of ER at TSB Bank to gain some insight into what their organisations have embedded to support their employees.


Below we hear from Anna Lees, Head of Engagement and Growth at Refinitiv.

Anna is the Head of Engagement & Growth which is part of the Talent, Leadership & Inclusion Team and the People Function at Refinitiv. She is responsible for defining the Engagement Framework, providing cross Refinitiv Employee Engagement support and running the GLINT Engagement survey. She is also responsible for Career Development and Growth, with a focus on providing all colleagues across Refinitiv with support and development on topics that are critical in the current environment (e.g.  wellbeing, resilience, connection, parenting, mental health and inclusion in the virtual environment). Anna also leads a number of Integration Workstreams including articulating the approach to Career Growth and Development, defining how we will approach work and the office in the future, engagement and wellbeing.


We are moving into a new era where longer term flexible working environments and remote working is becoming the norm. What challenges is this new way of working presenting for Refinitiv when it comes to employee mental health and wellbeing?

At Refinitiv we have a comprehensive range of support on offer to employees from day one of working virtually.  However, despite a range or resources (including webinars, toolkits, smaller workshops, local support, wellbeing resources, parenting support, EAP etc.) we are still seeing people struggling with creating effective boundaries between work and home.  Employees are feeling mentally and physically more tired due to excessive video meetings and increased workload and have feelings of always “being on”. Being able to switch off is a real challenge for parents and carers, who are dealing with home schooling and providing emotional support to their children at this time. Overall it is tough for many people despite the benefits of no commute, more time with family and a more inclusive flatter culture.


How has this evolved from when Covid first hit, now that you have navigated the initial challenges around remote working?

In the early stages the main focus for most people globally, was on safety and adjusting to this new and alien way of working. Colleagues needed very practical help with home office set up, managing remote teams and generally coming to terms with a totally different way of relating to one another. The support we offered early on addressed those immediate needs, as well as starting to provide support for mental health and emotional wellbeing strategies and tools. Once it became clear that we were in this situation for the longer-term the practical support stayed but the focus shifted to helping people stay resilient, practical tools and techniques for parents and carers, and an increased focus on our employee networks and local initiatives.


Can you share some examples of solutions that have been successfully embedded?

Initially we threw together support and tools very quickly with an intranet offering called “Thriving through Turbulent Times” which launched just a week after we went virtual. This included Leader’s webinars on managing change and webinars on working remotely. There was a huge appetite for these. In the background we assembled existing resources and created new ones specifically to help people transition.  For instance, a dedicated Covid helpline, clear FAQs around how to set up a home office and clear expectations of how everything would work.

This was followed by a global campaign, championed by our CEO and CHRO about wellbeing and support which was called “We Evolve”. This allowed us to be agile and use insights from our quarterly Employee Survey to target support and resources where people needed them most. For example, we created “me time”, an hour every day with no internal meetings that are focused on giving some time and space back to individuals.  We also created monthly “We Days” which are themed and have no internal meetings, so people can connect with others, come to virtual events (set up locally and globally) as well as have some time back to focus and re-set.

We have also deepened the focus on emotional wellbeing over time and have been working with our managers to fairly and flexibly manage performance, where you maintain standards, but allow colleagues to work flexibly to achieve them. Dispelling myths about e-presentism.


What are the biggest challenges you need to be aware of as you look to the future in this space?

What this means for the long-term is that we have to be very deliberate in considering how people work at their best, and part of that is thinking about what we have lost by working remotely, which is often named as a sense of community, connection and the feeling of belonging. People also mention that it is more difficult to be creative and that development, coaching and mentoring is more challenging. How we get that back while retaining the flexibility and inclusiveness that virtual working offers is the key question for us in building our approach to work in the future.

Wellbeing and mental health is not just about being kind, it is good business, as we know, that when colleagues are supported to work at their best they are also more creative and more productive. Everyone benefits! This means we are looking at hybrid working where there is no one size fits all, but we take the best from both worlds. The right work needs to be done in the right place and the office facilitates collaboration, creativity and development while individual tasks can be done effectively remotely. The focus on wellbeing will continue for a long-time to come in how we design work and our working environments.