How the pandemic has enhanced the focus on employee wellbeing

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Article by Caroline Melloy, Director, Talent Integration UK and Channel Islands and Head of Diversity & Inclusion for Europe at Royal Bank of Canada

Even only a few years ago, many thought wellbeing, wellness and mental health at work were exclusively managed and handled in private by an individual – not openly shared or spoken about.

Now, more than ever before, we are witnessing a noticeable change in people being more open to sharing their feelings, colleagues proactively looking for signs of struggle, and individuals and companies finding solutions to support mental health and wellbeing. Whether this stems from the pandemic, or societal trends towards greater openness, authenticity and support, the result is incredibly encouraging.

In the workplace, this change in personal sentiment to openness has translated to employers putting a more coordinated, refined and transparent focus on managing stress and wellbeing. People are the heart of every organisation, so this comes as no surprise.

Recognising there is no one size fits all approach to talent management, Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) looks to a number of programmes and initiatives in order to attract, engage, develop and retain talent.

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic being one of the most challenging experiences for many in recent years, it has played a key positive in evolving empathy of leaders. Working from home, juggling personal circumstances while trying to stay above water at work, coupled with an insight into homes and lives has created a deeper and more personal relationship between manager and employee. The focus of meetings evolved from ‘what are you working on’ to ‘how are you doing?’ And universal acceptance of ‘it’s OK to not be OK’ swept across the world.

Wellness and stress management has always been a focus at RBC through our benefits programmes and digital wellness campaigns focussed on physical, mental, social and financial health. However in 2021, RBC launched a deliberate and focussed approach to mental health through the launch of the ‘Together, we are perfectly human’ campaign.

This campaign focusses on mental health and recognises that we are all human; stress, anxiety, mental injury and illness happen to everyone. We want to create an environment where mental health is treated without stigma, where employees feel safe to speak openly about their mental well-being. The campaign put a direct focus on people managers to encourage communication and equipped them with tools, training and resources to help them in facilitating these discussions. RBC also invited all employees globally to download the Headspace App as part of the benefits package, and ran pulse surveys with questions focussed on wellbeing in order to gauge employee sentiment.

This focus has and will continue throughout 2022 and beyond. In my role at RBC in Europe, I help identify and design solutions across talent management and at the regional level we formally called out employee wellbeing as priority focus area for leaders, managers and employees.

Among a number of our employee resource groups (ERGs), i-Care officially creates a safe space for persons with disabilities and has delivered sessions designed to help employees through challenging moments that matter.

Throughout the last year, we have run events with celebrated mental health speakers such as Jonny Wilkinson and Ruby Wax, education sessions on neurodiversity and in May 2022, we will celebrate Mental Health Awareness Week. We are also launching an inaugural Wellness Week open to all European employees to attend seminars on physical, mental, and nutritional health, as well as work life balance hints and tips, and yoga and posture clinics. The response has been extremely positive, and levels of engagement have exceeded our expectations.

Solutions and creativity are often spawned out of crisis and I am pleased that the evolving personal landscape as well as the increasingly indeterminable changes in lifestyle accelerated by the pandemic have enhanced the focus in the financial services industry on employee wellbeing. It is critical that companies continue to foster a culture of compassion and support people in helping them understand the value in looking after themselves and each other, and are empowered to do so.

Caroline MelloyAbout the author

Caroline Melloy is the Director, Talent Integration UK and Channel Islands and Head of Diversity & Inclusion for Europe at Royal Bank of Canada. Based in London, Caroline is a member of the British Isles Diversity Leadership Committee and UK Human Resources Management Committee for RBC’s Capital Markets, Investor & Treasury Services and Wealth Management businesses.

Caroline is passionate about talent management and promotes the adoption of agile practices by using data driven insights to co-create enhanced employee experiences. She has worked on range of strategic initiatives and is a certified agile HR practitioner, digital and diverse talent specialist.

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