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Mental Health and Agile Performance Management

Can Agile Performance Management bridge the critical gap between unchecked employee mental health / wellbeing issues and the employer?

This mental health awareness week we are highlighting one of the key issues affecting both employees and organisations; with the pandemic providing a catalyst for the escalation of work-related stress, isolation and burnout.

65% of people in the UK have felt more stressed than ever before since the COVID-19 restrictions began, according to a Stress Management Society study (in partnership with Huawei AppGallery and Headspace). Additionally, Mind data shows that 1 in 6 workers experience problems such as anxiety, low mood and stress at work.

Poor mental health costs the UK economy between £74 billion and £99 billion a year, and lost productivity represents up to 1% of the annual wage bill. Analysis by Deloitte suggests that investing in supporting mental health at work is good for business and productivity.

Clearly addressing mental health is a key issue for employers and employees alike. However, some of the key challenges in this are that wellbeing is dropping down the business agenda in 2022, according to research by CIPD, whilst the fallout from the pandemic continues. Presenteeism (working when ill) and leaveism (such as using annual leave to work) are high, at 67% and 81%; stats echoed by the Global Burnout Study, 2022.

Even as some organisations return to more office-based working, stress is being felt by many, with 37% of employees worried about going into the office, with almost half (49%) concerned about additional costs and the same percentage concerned about work-life balance (from a Slack survey released this week).

This is compounded by the fact that two thirds of employees would not currently feel comfortable raising a mental or emotional wellbeing issue with their employer, according to a Nuffield Health survey.

However, half of the same respondents stated that they were not offered any physical or emotional wellbeing support at work, highlighting an important and isolating gap in processes and provision having a huge impact, especially in an area which still has some stigma attached.

Gosia Bowling, national lead for emotional wellbeing at Nuffield Health said “It’s more important than ever that employers find ways to create inclusive and connected workplace environments where people feel supported.” Gosia added that this would help increase staff productivity and happiness, and employers should be encouraging employees to engage in meaningful conversations. Employers should also look for signs of loneliness and offer targeted mental health support.

So, can agile performance management; the next generation of performance management, (which values empowerment and giving people the support they need), help reach out and fulfil this critical need?

Businesses now need effective performance management strategies that can respond quickly to changing circumstances and support employees even under stress.

Agile performance management opens up communication channels between employee and employer. It involves regular updates and feedback from employees in order to ensure that they are working at peak efficiency and an opportunity to identify any challenges.

With its roots in software development, agile values people over processes (especially critical in supporting mental health). The right tools can help build core communication skills within performance management, to help develop a culture of trust through empathy and understanding on an individual level.

In the face of employees facing stress, resigning or suffering burnout due to overwork or other factors, this continuous communication helps to identify issues early on and prevent further problems down the line. Uncovering mental health or wellbeing issues and supporting the individual through the recommended steps in a timely way is paramount.

Effective performance management, using a responsive or agile method, is essential for organisations as well as individuals facing challenging times like these, helping them stay focused and productive even in the midst of chaos, and getting the support they need at an early stage.

Effective performance management also helps to alleviate employee burnout and turnover during periods of upheaval. By providing clear goals, regular feedback, and supportive coaching, managers can help their team members stay motivated and engaged even in the most challenging circumstances. From onboarding new hires to guiding employees who are thinking about resigning due to job stress or long covid, effective performance management is key for keeping your organisation running smoothly even in turbulent times.

For employers, what kind of results could be expected from these, more modern approaches to performance management?

“As a team it’s had a huge impact in terms of our working styles. The comfort which we now have in terms of asking each other the difficult questions and addressing those things which would have previously been unaddressed.”
- Andrew Hay, MD for Asset Services, EMEA

“Some of the themes that came out more broadly (anonymously) meant that we were able to set up particular work-streams and focus groups to really unpick some of these areas that were coming out as a concern to individuals or a common theme. One of them was around the area of delegation, so we were really able to focus in and do some specific training and development sessions around that area; that was incredibly valuable.”
- Rachel Davis, HR Manager at RPC

We asked Bowland to deliver their 'Meaningful Conversations' training to our senior managers and leadership team. Their approach is always professional, and so working with them has been a delight and very easy. The feedback from participants has been very positive; they were engaged, felt it was well delivered and useful.
- Sian Evans, Head of HR, Evercore

If you’d like to find out more about this topic, you may be interested in our upcoming webinar: The Key to Performance Management in a Post-Covid World, on Wednesday 25th May, 2:00-2:45pm BST. Join to discover how organisations can make sense of challenges, adapt and support employees to thrive in ever-changing and complex times.

Register on Eventbrite now

As a thank you for attending the webinar, you will also receive a copy of our latest white-paper; 10 Ways Businesses can Mitigate ‘The Great Resignation'.