overcoming change

Overcoming the impact of change Posted by Justine Clarabut on 12 April, 2021

Change can affect our mental health

We all have mental health. It affects how we think, feel and act and determines how we deal with life circumstances. Having good mental health helps us to have direction and a sense of purpose. However, mental health can fluctuate as circumstances change and can impact our overall wellbeing.

For over 12 months, we have experienced significant and unprecedented changes to the way we live. Lockdown has affected us all in different ways and feelings of uncertainty are still widespread. According to the Mental Health Organisation, emotional and mental wellbeing are showing signs of recovery in some areas but not for all. One group that stands out are 18-24 year olds, who still appear to be suffering from higher levels of hopelessness, anxiety and loneliness.

There is so much to think about with more change ahead and further adjustment to how we have lived for the last year

For the working population, adapting to a different way of working happened so quickly during the first lockdown of March 2020. People had to adjust rapidly to working from home, and for some in isolation. Now there is change happening again with the return to offices and workplaces, or for those that have been furloughed for months are now preparing to return to work.

The barriers to change

For many people, change brings about uncertainty and fear of the unknown which can cause a great deal of anxiety and stress. When people feel that they have no control over a situation, it can leave them feeling powerless. They may also have a fear of what they might be losing – maybe a new job title or working with different team members or even a job loss.

A lack of understanding and angst of the unknown can affect focus, cause negative attitudes and resistance to organisational change. All of which can be detrimental to an employee’s wellbeing.

social distance

Ways to cope with change at work

Everyone’s situation will be unique. Making sure you look after your mental wellbeing is paramount to feeling good and staying productive.

Stay connected – communication is key! Talk to your line manager about any issues or concerns you may have. Chat to your colleagues too as they may also be feeling overwhelmed at a further disruption to their routine. The prospect of commuting again and leaving the comfort of their own home may feel quite overwhelming for some people.

Prepare ahead – Being forewarned is being forearmed! Make sure you know of any changes in your office before returning to work. This will give you time to deal with any issues or adjustments in advance.

Be kind to yourself – It may take a while to adjust and things may not always go quite as you hope. So be kind to yourself and allow time to understand what you’re experiencing. Your colleagues too may be going through similar problems too, so showing kindness will benefit them, and you too.

Don’t be hasty – If possible, ease yourself back in at a pace that suits you and allow time for a smooth transition. If you are finding things difficult, discuss with your line manager how you can return to the office gradually. Or perhaps flexible working may be an option.

“The first step towards change is awareness. The second step is acceptance” Nathaniel Branden

Strategies for employers to overcome the impact of change on their employees

Managing the impact of change for your employees, and your organisation, is essential to ensure a smooth transition period in the return to the workplace, and for some, back to normal working hours.

Communication – Prepare your employees for any changes as soon as you can. Communicate openly and as honestly as possible to give your employees confidence and trust in what is to come. Be proactive in your approach by taking time to answer questions and address any concerns or worries.

Allow time – Allowing your employees a period of adjustment to acclimatise and prioritise workloads is vital to help keep stress levels low and productivity high. There may be operational or system changes, workload/desk sharing/staff changes etc – all of which will take time to adjust to.

Remind employees they are important – One of the best ways to do this is to listen to what your team has to say (individually). Encourage honest conversations and chat about expectations. Employee feedback surveys are a great way to foster a sense of inclusion, influence, and importance.

Wellbeing strategy – Wellbeing programmes play a critical role in strengthening corporate culture and ensuring your employees are productive. Taking care of the mental and physical wellbeing of employees will help them to feel valued and supported. It is particularly important during times of shift and change.

Wellbeing ambassadors – Assigning a wellbeing ambassador or champion will assist with the changes and keep employees engaged. Wellbeing Ambassadors can empower employees to enrol in wellbeing programmes. They are also invaluable in helping the company to overcome any resistance in employee participation.

Share success – Highlighting successes of previous organisational changes will help to keep a positive mindset amongst employees. Even sharing small successes – perhaps how well the company coped with the initial adjustments of lockdown and working from home.

Provide training – Ensure that your employees are trained in new roles or provide refresher courses for those that have been out of work for over 12 months. Positive steps such as these help towards a healthy and productive workforce.

Wellbeing People are enthusiastic about the forthcoming changes as it brings hope and positivity for workplaces to move forward

In light of the effect the pandemic has had on so many people, and in order to prevent illness, putting wellbeing at the forefront of company agendas has never been so important. To read more about what wellbeing is and why it is so important for businesses to look after the wellbeing of their employees click here

References and further reading