October 10 is World Mental Health Day. Typically, organizations would mark the day by promoting specific initiatives around wellbeing in the workplace. However, the events of the past year have dramatically altered working life.
Much of the thinking around the future of work in recent years focused on a desire for greater flexibility. A 2019 report by Buffer revealed that 99 per cent of respondents wanted to work remotely at least some of the time for the rest of their careers.
However, in light of the widespread national and local lockdown measures, many workers now find themselves out of their daily routine, missing the camaraderie of an office, and juggling home commitments like childcare.
Millions of people are now forced to work in near isolation from their bedrooms, or the kitchen table – often in awkward or cramped conditions. Those that don’t have the option of working from home, must contend with daily anxieties and proper social distancing.
Given these challenges, how can organizations take a standard-based approach to adapt wellbeing strategies that cater to the new ways of working?
The International Labour Organization (ILO) states that: “Workplace wellbeing relates to all aspects of working life, from the quality and safety of the physical environment, to how workers feel about their work, their working environment, the climate at work.”
It’s important to separate wellbeing strategy from occupational health and safety (OH&S). However, neither can be considered without the other.
Companies should use the global standard ISO 45001 to prevent work-related injury and ill-health – demonstrating an organizational commitment to safe, healthy and sustainable working conditions.
BSI has also produced BSI Flex 45005. A safe working guidelines document, it provides businesses with the tools to navigate the complexities of the changing global situation and adapt to the new ways of working.
Most importantly, it prioritizes maintaining processes such as OH&S and wellbeing strategy more broadly.
Organizations should identify and manage the causes of occupational stress and what are often referred to as ‘psychosocial’ hazards – which can lead to both physical and mental illnesses.
BSI Flex 45005 recommends establishing processes to manage the impact of the pandemic on workers’ psychological health and well-being; addressing job insecurity, role ambiguity, or a change in work pace.
The guidance suggests flexible working hours, promoting a culture of care and trust, giving regular updates, and providing appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE).
Next year, BSI is publishing ISO 45003 – a psychosocial sister to ISO 45001 – with the sole aim of promoting wellbeing at work.
Elements such as diversity, inclusivity and accessibility should also be considered by businesses that want to take a more holistic approach to workplace wellbeing.
Studies have shown that a diverse workforce is a productive and satisfied one. As conversations around diversity and inclusion (D&I) have come to the fore in 2020, companies that want to take a leadership position can use the upcoming BSI ISO 30415 to optimize human resources processes.
Furthermore, if a member of staff feels equipped to complete their role, this will mitigate any undue stress that could impact on their wellbeing. Learning and development should not cease because staff are working remotely. PD 76006 provides a guide to learning and development for management teams.
This year has brought about plenty of discussion about a ‘new normal’ and what this means for businesses and their employees. Although the context of what wellbeing at work means has changed somewhat in recent months, its importance has undoubtedly grown.