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Supporting role

The latest Workplace Wellbeing and Stress Forum focused on ways to promote mental and emotional comfort in the workplace

Workplace wellbeing is a hot topic for organisations around the globe. Towards the close of 2017, Symposium hosted its annual Workplace Wellbeing and Stress Forum to help employers step up and tackle the greatest inhibitor of growth, innovation and creativity – stress.

Back for its twelfth year, the event saw business professionals from across the country share their experience of workplace stress. Organisations also relayed what they’ve done about combating mental ill-health in order to improve wellbeing.

Forum Chair, Neil Shah, Chief De-Stressing Officer of the Stress Management Society, defined stress as the result of “when demand placed on an individual exceeds their resources”. Most of us, at one point or another, have probably encountered the stress that comes from having too much on without the means to conquer the workload. Add the fact that Leesman data reveals that only 57 per cent of employees agree that their workplace enables them to work productively, and it’s clearly important that FM steps up to the challenge.

The relationship between people and place is in the limelight and the role of the facilities manager is becoming even more people-facing, requiring more soft skills than just managing the building itself. As the people on the ground, whose job it is to ensure that employees have everything they need to work effectively, it’s important that FMs help drive the wellbeing agenda.

Servest places its 20,000-plus employees at the heart of the business. For the management team, wellbeing isn’t an afterthought – it’s an essential part of the people services being offered. Having been promoted from Group Chief People Officer to CEO UK in October, CJ Green is encouraging business leaders to assess their wellbeing strategies moving forward into 2018.

“Managers can help alleviate workplace worries by creating supportive environments, with open lines of communication,” she said. “Sometimes the smallest acts, such as asking someone how they are, can make the biggest impact.”

ESSENTIAL SUPPORT
In this fast-paced world of ours, it appears there’s been a sort of merging between human resources and facilities management. Moving from being ‘just’ the person that manages the building, FMs are now seen as managing the people inside the building. In a role that is so heavily focused on the support of staff, it is crucial that the FM of a site is also seen to be approachable. Whether you’re an FM at an SME or part of a facilities management and real estate team supporting a global organisation, your employees need to know that they have someone to turn to if needs be – especially if the space they commute to each day is, for whatever reason, failing to support them in their role.

In a talk by the health, safety and wellbeing partner at the Environment Agency, delegates learned that wellbeing is an integral part of the agency’s approach to health and safety. The Environment Agency operates a ‘healthy minds’ initiative, focusing on what they call ‘the emotional gym’ – encouraging staff to “exercise their minds like they would their bodies”, and to share their experiences and have open conversations in order to “chip away at the stigma”.

In line with this, the agenda included a panel debate focusing on how to tackle the stigma around the term ‘mental health’. Whether we like to admit it or not (and despite the committed work being carried out by people around the world to help combat it), people do still face great difficulty in discussing their mental health. The Group Head of Wellbeing at the Department for Transport (DfT), Becky Thoseby, highlighted how encouraging people to talk to each other in a supportive environment can help alleviate the negative connotations associated with mental health.

“We believe strongly in the power of storytelling and sharing your experiences,” she said, before sharing further insight about the initiatives the DfT is running in order to get people talking. The DfT team “use a blog to discuss what they’re doing outside of work” as a way of facilitating open and honest communication in a way that isn’t always focused on work and the work day. The panel debate reiterated the fact that empathy and sincerity are the greatest support tools that anyone can provide to those in need of an ear or a shoulder.

About Sarah OBeirne

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