Wellbeing, mental as well as physical, has been an important topic of discussion as businesses worldwide decide how to best bring their employees back to work. We spoke to Magda Niculescu, Executive Coach and Consultant, about the importance of putting wellbeing at the core of a company’s culture, the steps employers can take to care for their employees, and actionable insights on how to look after our own wellbeing.
Why should companies put the mental wellbeing of their employees at the core of their workplace culture?
Magda Niculescu: The question is simple if you think logically about a company’s interest. A company wants high productivity from its employees, so leaders would ensure all sorts of conditions for employees to work at their best. One of these is their wellbeing, in general, not only mental. This is an important factor that increases employee engagement. Happy, healthy employees get much more done: they are more enthusiastic, more motivated, and more collaborative; they show more creativity and problem-solving. Many companies have woken up to the fact that they don’t have one unique stakeholder, their shareholders, but that their employees are also one other important stakeholder, alongside their customers, the environment and the community at large. It’s not only in their long-term interest but it is also considered lately as “good citizenship” for a company to care for its employees and many stakeholders. Employee wellbeing becomes part of the workplace culture.
Many employees are stressed about the prospect of returning to the office because of the risk of being infected. Do you have tips on how employees can manage their stress if they have to return to the office?
Magda Niculescu: By definition, stress is how somebody answers when faced with hardship or certain conditions and it is subjectively felt. You can often change these conditions so they become less menacing, and you can always change the way you relate to them. Hence, one way to deal with stress is to act on the circumstances. If you are worried about getting sick, you can minimise the chances of getting sick. In the context of Covid-19, make sure to wear protection, keep physical distance from fellow co-workers and wash your hands. You change the environment and what you do.
The other way to deal with stress is how you relate to the situation. You can tell yourself, “Well, I really took all the precautions, the chances are minimal of me getting sick and if I get sick, it is likely that I will be fine”. Find facts and data that will make you shift your attitude and will help you find as many reasons as you need to support the empowering way to relate to this situation. Chances are, it will all turn out ok. It may be difficult if you are risk-averse and are not used to shift your mindsets. In this case, you always have the option to reach out and ask for professional help.
What are some of the steps that employers can take to make the transition of their employees as smoothly as possible, minimising the stress as much as possible?
Magda Niculescu: They would have to take precautions and make the environment safe to minimise infections. Here, I cannot generalise because each company will have its own assessment of their specific situation and will take its own measures. I know of companies where employees will not return in the office earlier than September and others are allowing a limited number of people on the premises at the same time and have set schedules to this end. Also, I believe, work from home will become a permanent policy in most places where this is possible.
How can people who are working from home ensure that they stay productive while taking care of their mental wellbeing?
Magda Niculescu: A way to approach this is for people to replicate at home the routines they had in the office. One aspect could be the schedule: keep the same hours, have the same breaks. Another aspect would be the environment: sit at an office, have a proper desk. Try not to just sit in the living room or on the couch, but organise a proper work area, a proper corner, so whenever you sit there you know that you are working. Try to get the same rituals and routines you have in the office: start with a coffee, put on some other clothes, maybe not as fancy as the ones you have in the office, but don’t work in your PJs. All of this helps the mind to feel at work; moreover, we work well when we have routines.
Also, find ways to limit disturbances while you are working, schedule and organise kids, pets, family, household chores so that your work is not interrupted. You can ask your employer to allow you to organise your time differently. For example, you can work from 7 to 10, then attend to home-schooling and the other needs of your kids and then back to work for another couple of hours.
Another important aspect is to tend to all your needs and take good care of yourself. We are not only made of our minds, but we also have an emotional and relational side, a physical side and a spiritual side. Make sure you feel recharged in all these areas.
What are some of the changes you expect to see in the workplace, as a consequence of the pandemic?
Magda Niculescu: A lot of companies would have seriously upgraded their tech infrastructure to make it possible for people to work from home. This will not go away, on the contrary. I imagine personal hygiene will stay at a high level: washing hands will become “sacred” and some people will be wearing masks in crowded areas, just in case, even after the pandemic. Companies will reorganise office space putting more distance between desks and workstations. While physical distancing will be in place, hopefully, there won’t be any emotional distancing from one another.
I assume people and companies will have learnt more about how to stay productive and staying well, mentally, relationally, and physically is a facilitator of that.
When it comes to how the culture of a company will evolve, I hope people will have become more resilient, more empathetic, and more confident. That they will say “That was a serious crisis we went through; we can now face any other challenge”. Managers will hopefully have learnt more about connecting with and engaging with their teams and uniting them around a higher purpose.
Magda Niculescu is a Consultant and Executive Coach on Leadership, Change and Workforce Transformation.
Her approach starts from the invisible fundaments (values, culture, purpose, authentic leadership, engagement) towards ultimate business results, no matter the operational function or stage of the business.
She mixes the visionary, strategic and difference-making sense for business previously acquired as a corporate executive, with adult learning insights, performance psychology and neurosciences. She challenges managers to create success beyond numbers and impact that makes a real difference for people: clients, colleagues, organization, community and themselves.
Magda holds two Masters in Business Administration and International Trade from École Supérieure des Affaires de Grenoble and a B.Sc in Psychology from Bucharest University.
She has qualified in coaching in the UK and USA and holds several other professional certificates. She is a constant learner and her consulting frameworks keep up with the latest neuroscience discoveries, business challenges and trends.