During this pandemic, all our relationships have inevitably been affected. For some, remote working, physical distancing or loss of employment are likely to increase feelings of loneliness which can lead to poor personal wellbeing, poor physical and mental health.
Today we give particular attention to workplace relationships.
In just a very short period, the time and means by which we have to connect with the people we work with has changed dramatically, and as such so has the quality of those interactions. It is important to protect and invest in these relationships.
Employee relationships matter
Research undertaken by the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills highlights that ‘positive relationships with managers, co-workers and customers’ are key characteristics of ‘good jobs’ that enhance workers wellbeing and engagement, and improve organisational performance. Similarly, our ‘high quality job’ framework refers to the relevance of the social connections we have.
Healthy workplace connections and shared values help build a sense of belonging which “may help maintain wellbeing and organisational performance through adversity”. The analysis of the British Workplace Employment Relations Survey, before and after the 2008 recession found that workplaces that had been hit by the recession, but where employees had a strong sense of organisational identity were:
Have you asked your colleagues how they are feeling, or if they still feel connected to their colleagues or whether they feel supported? Our wellbeing snapshot survey gives you tried and tested questions to find out how your employees are doing right now. We also have a benchmark report for you to compare your results with (pre-COVID) national averages.
For instance, as of 2015:
Nearly 1.4 million employees reported they rarely or never got support from their colleagues - 7.2% male and 3.1% female.
More than 2.3 million said they rarely or never got support from their manager - 10% male and 7.5% female.
Working together, apart
A review of the evidence suggests that encouraging work-related shared activities (e.g. workshops or cross team projects) is a simple action that can improve workplace social relationships and wellbeing, and can also take place virtually. In addition, researchers from UCL and University of Cardiff found that working in semi-autonomous teams encourages positive attitudes to work performance, such as taking more initiative to introduce improvements.
For those exposed to toxic or abusive relationships at work before the lockdown, it may be that working from home actually acts as a protective factor. In these cases, it is important for managers to use this opportunity to identify and address any issues to avoid returning to the toxic environment when lockdown ends.
It is clear that managers need to continue to find ways of maintaining good quality management practises despite the challenges of the current circumstances.
Dr Helen Fitzhugh from the University of East Anglia explains in her blog “workers need support, recognition and feedback, as well as to feel their manager understands the challenges of their current working situation and manages accordingly.”
In fact evidence suggests that when employees "receive greater help from management on a day-to-day basis or through formal appraisal, the greater the prevalence of initiative taking, innovation, high impact suggestion making and high productivity enhancing jobs" as well as perceptions of fair treatment at work.
For tailored support to analyse and improve wellbeing in your organisation please email our work and business specialist by replying to this email.