With the pandemic continuing to bring high levels of stress and challenge, staff mental health and wellbeing are under attack. So, what can employers do to protect their staff from burnout? We know that understanding the wellbeing needs of staff is crucial to knowing how to respond. Here we show you how to assess staff resilience and wellbeing and why it is so important for supporting staff through difficult times.

Why are staff resilience and wellbeing important?

Staff are the most precious components of any business. Every employer knows that staff wellbeing is key to the successful functioning of their organisation. But when staff experience persistent threat, pressure and stress their wellbeing is inevitably undermined. This will negatively impacting functioning and work performance and ultimately compromise the smooth running of the organisation.

Why is assessing staff resilience and wellbeing the first step?

When staff are struggling, we can easily jump to conclusions about what they need. We might make assumptions based on our own experiences or what we hear from others. We might think that because one or two people voice concerns about things, these will be a problem for everyone. But it may be that those people are just more vocal than the others.

If we base resilience and wellbeing interventions on hearsay or assumption they are likely to fall short of the mark. This can be costly for businesses and money ill-spent if the true sources of stress are not addressed.

In reality, we can’t fully know what staff need or want to boost their resilience and wellbeing unless we ask. Investigating the key sources of stress and overwhelm is the first most important step to ensuring these needs are met.

By asking staff about the challenges they are struggling with, employers demonstrate that they are really listening. Opportunity is created to not only listen but also to respond. When staff see employers are listening and responding to what they say, they feel more confident that their employers care. And this builds trust and collaboration. Trust is one of the fundamental building blocks of resilience and wellbeing in the workplace.

What are the barriers to assessing staff resilience and wellbeing?

Fear of what you will hear

Asking staff how they are feeling, about their sources of stress and their wellbeing needs can be difficult. When employers ask these questions, it can feel like they are opening themselves up to threat. They may not want to know the answers or like what they hear. They may fear being exposed as doing something wrong. Or they may worry that they will be unable to fix the problems that are highlighted. It can be hard to acknowledge these fears. And this can become a barrier to assessing staff resilience and wellbeing.

Pressure to act

Pressure to act can become another barrier to assessing staff resilience and wellbeing effectively. We may want to respond quickly to staff distress, manage staff sickness or resolve problems urgently. These sorts of pressures encourage employers to fall back on their assumptions about what may be wrong. But when they do this, they are more likely to rush into putting interventions in place before they really know what is going on.

Feeling criticised

For some employers, the fear of staff cynicism about resilience and wellbeing can hold them back from getting a complete picture. Staff who have lived with uncertainty, new challenges or overwhelm can become critical of their employer. They may be angry, feeling their employer is not protecting or supporting them. This anger can be threatening to employers and they may react defensively, becoming critical in response. This can break trust and make it more difficult for employers to really listen to staff. It can feel easier to leap in with an intervention without fully understanding what is behind staff anger. Staff are less likely to engage with these interventions if they dont feel listened to, reducing their effectiveness.

Sharing responsibility

Employers need to remember that resilience and wellbeing in the workplace is not just the responsibility of staff members. Rather it is a collaboration between staff and employers in which both make a commitment to change. By assessing staff resilience and wellbeing, employers give employees the firm message that they are interested and listening. This shows staff that they are not afraid to hear about the difficulties. Employers are acknowledging their role, accepting that some of the difficulties might be due to their own processes. By listening and responding to what they hear, they show staff that they are authentic and want to help.

Assessing staff resilience and wellbeing

A staff survey is a great way to assess staff resilience and wellbeing. Gathering feedback on the main threats and challenges staff are facing helps to understand their impact. This important information primarily provides employers with the tools to develop a clear strategy and action plan. Secondly, it provides opportunity to measure the impact of interventions and assess subsequent improvements in staff wellbeing and performance.

Perhaps now more than ever, assessing staff resilience and wellbeing needs to be prioritised. The pandemic has hit us all hard. Staff have faced huge personal and professional challenges which have taken their toll on mental health. Assessing resilience and wellbeing challenges helps us understand the pressures staff are facing, both at work and at home. It allows us to understand the impact on work functioning. This will provide essential information to inform a wellbeing strategy and action plan.

What makes a quality wellbeing survey?

Wellbeing is multifaceted, so any survey aiming to understand the challenges a person or staff team are facing will need to investigate both personal and professional experiences, considering the key social, psychological and environmental elements of each.

Typically, a wellbeing survey will need to look at:

  • Factors known to influence wellbeing. These may include social connection and belonging, feeling valued, daily routine, diet and exercise, work/life balance, self-care and sleep. Assessing existing sources of support and wellbeing within the workplace and how staff feel about these is also important.
  • The sources and impact of threat. We need to evaluate the impact of demands, physical environment, change, conflict, job security and external factors. And we need to understand their effect on staff physical and mental health, work/life balance, alcohol consumption and finances.
  • Standardised measures of mental health, resilience and wellbeing. These provide a more in-depth analysis of stress levels and functioning. They establish a baseline against which to measure the impact of future resilience and wellbeing interventions.

Staff need to feel confident that their responses are anonymous if we want them to answer questions honestly. When staff feel they might be personally identified they will be less likely to complete the survey. Commissioning an external organisation to conduct your staff wellbeing survey can help to increase feelings of anonymity. It is also more likely to elicit better response rates and greater honesty. This will provide a more accurate picture of work challenges and workforce mental health.

How we can help

Designing your own wellbeing survey is of course an option. But we know from experience that engaging an external agency with proven expertise can save you time and money. You can be sure that the survey is targeting the specific challenges faced by your staff. You can have confidence that you will achieve heightened engagement and response rates. And you can have peace of mind that you have provided the conditions necessary for staff to be open and honest about their views. This means you will be able to formulate a wellbeing strategy that truly targets staff need.

As Clinical Psychologists, we can help. We have the specialist expertise you need. Our training in research methods, survey design and statistical evaluation mean that our process is robust and evidence-based. Combined with our knowledge of mental health and wellbeing you can be sure of a comprehensive and bespoke wellbeing survey for your organisation.

Contact us for a free staff wellbeing consultation.