Encouraging staff wellbeing at times of heightened stress

01 April 2020

Stress Awareness Month brings into sharp focus the very real challenges faced by millions of people every day, heightened further by the current global crisis caused by Coronavirus COVID-19. Jane McDonald, Head of Diversity and Inclusion at Leonardo in the UK, explains how the company is addressing this and helping staff manage stress effectively.

The fast pace of 21st century life, with its reluctance to ease up, can have significant consequences on our stress levels. Whether it’s feeling the need to be constantly connected or balancing your family’s requirements with your individual needs, it can sometimes all feel like things are getting on top of you. And it can happen to anybody of any age and at any time.

Adding in a pandemic is likely to throw up even more uncertainty and anxiety, especially for anyone who is already struggling to manage their day-to-day mental and physical wellbeing, which is why marking Stress Awareness Month is so important. After all, it offers an opportunity for us to focus individually and collectively on how we are managing our own stress levels and supporting family, friends and colleagues with theirs.

At Leonardo, our overarching approach to inclusion is designed to support our people and their wellbeing. To help us do that, we have a wide ranging education and awareness-raising programme that runs throughout the year marking key awareness weeks and days such as Stress Awareness Month. A blended programme of employee-focused activities and campaigns means we can ensure that if or when someone needs information or support, it is available to them – whether that be through online content, poster campaigns or events and interactive activities.

While stress can certainly be a result or cause of a serious breakdown in someone’s wellbeing, it’s important to recognise that not all stress is negative. Some people can thrive off a certain amount of stress, letting it drive them to achieve great things under difficult circumstances or tight deadlines. However, it is a very delicate balance, and going past the tipping point could have dire repercussions for the individual and those around them, both in a professional and personal capacity.

An evolving mental health landscape

It is because of this, that we have a robust system in place at Leonardo to enable any of our people to get the support they require.

Leonardo has always cared about its people and has put in place great occupational health (OH) services across its UK business. In recent times, the approach has evolved in response to how society is becoming more open about recognising and talking about the potential impact of stress on all our mental health. As a result, internally, we’ve seen the establishment of employee networks which help deliver awareness-raising initiatives around how we are supporting good mental health practices.

And, like all good employers, we have great OH services across our UK business that our people can access, alongside our Employee Assistance Programme. Last year, we also began rolling out mental health awareness training across our UK sites.

Helping employees during the Coronavirus crisis

As Government guidance changes and working conditions are impacted, we’re developing a programme of activity to encourage our people to engage with and take part in. This includes hearing from them about how they’re looking after their children, and how carers are supporting their family members and vulnerable neighbours.

We also plan to distribute a regular ‘Thriving – How to Feel Good’ newsletter, along with short videos on our company intranet to help people stay in touch and feel part of the Leonardo community. This will include practical guidance on eating well, exercising and meditation, all of which people can access as and when they need it.

As a trained mental health first aider, I can’t urge people enough to continue to engage with this type of content; the human need for connection is fundamental to good mental health and stress reduction after all.

Adjusting to working from home

As the UK’s Covid-19-driven lockdown continues, we focus on the adjustment to working from home, and the benefits and difficulties it brings.

Adjusting to working from home