How leaders can support IT staff wellbeing in a post-Covid world

As businesses settle into hybrid working, how can leaders better support employee wellbeing? Helena Nimmo, CIO at Endava, outlines four things that business leaders can do to implement a long-term sustainable hybrid working model that puts employee wellbeing at its core.

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When companies shifted their workforce from office to remote working at the beginning of 2020, the topic of employee wellbeing became more important for businesses than ever before. People and businesses pivoted overnight but as people scrambled to adjust to this new way of living and working, the feelings of stress and anxiety ran high.

Most businesses moved quickly to support employees and used various methods to replicate an in-office experience online — from virtual team parties to scheduled watercooler chats, great effort went into maintaining that feeling of connection in yet unknown circumstances.

As we move into the post-Covid world, it’s important that we don’t let this new-found focus on mental wellbeing slip and keep the conversations regarding mental health in the workplace going as we enter the “new normal”.

IT professionals, in particular, have been faced with new challenges. The pandemic saw their workload increase with immediate effect as they became tech support to an entire workforce moving over to new software and remote working. The legacy of that continues, as they are tasked with keeping a distributed enterprise running smoothly, solving IT issues remotely and all while ensuring cybersecurity is up to scratch. This becomes an even bigger challenge when educating workers on the insecurities of their home networks, and the additional work that brings.

This added workload is considerable, and if not tackled proactively by leadership, could lead to more issues down the line — especially as the hybrid work model is set to continue. Here are the four things that business leaders can do to implement a long-term sustainable hybrid working model that puts employee wellbeing at its core:

Lead with empathy

The most important thing leaders can do is have a human approach to their leadership. A supportive work environment in which people feel that they can open up about any issues they’re dealing with, without the fear of judgement is crucial. Make yourself available for conversations, and when you’re approached — listen. What they tell you might differ from your own views or experiences but there is a lot leaders can learn from their employees, especially with the increasing diversity in global organisations.

Make mental health part of company culture

It’s also important to actively monitor the wellbeing of employees and to promote it as part of your company culture. Don’t expect employees to be their best all eight hours of the day. Build in thinking time to their role and prioritise the importance of down-time — promoting this from the top is key to such practices permeating the organisation.

At Endava, we’ve been using this transition period from the office to remote and hybrid work as an opportunity to be more proactive about communicating to staff about their mental health and to add gentle reminders to have a balanced lifestyle.

Promote learning and collaboration

Provide a technology ecosystem that promotes learning and collaboration, especially as we find our way in hybrid working. Once you’ve found it, examine and question the solutions continually, engage in end-user feedback to hear what works and what doesn’t and keep the wellbeing agenda front of mind. This is a tough ask, as there is often friction between employees and IT, but once again listening and trying to understand the root cause of the feedback is key. One size rarely fits all, and hybrid working, and the tech supporting it, needs to be flexible to those it is serving.

Keep team culture alive

When we were all in the office, we adapted our working patterns to the 9 to 5. With the ability to work from home, that daily structure is diminished, causing isolation and feelings of detachment. It can also cause longer working hours, as many of our IT colleagues can become absorbed in the creative process of developing. Understanding the behaviours and preferences of your team is important to ensure you can pro-actively address any health issues that arise. That means keeping everyone engaged and participating in team conversations, engaging one-on-one wherever possible and encouraging team meet ups in the office, face-to-face.

These simple steps are all key to knowing where employees are at — not to mention keeping the team culture alive.

  
 

Helena Nimmo is CIO at Endava. She has over 20 years of experience in change and organisational design through product development, data management and technology transformation. Prior to joining Endava, Nimmo worked in multiple sectors and variety of organisations including Thomson Reuters, Cancer Research UK, Fujitsu and Symbian. She started her technology career with Nokia.