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19 May 2020 | Suzanne Peck, Managing Director

Business, be kind


What will your organisation’s answer be to ‘What good did you do in the Covid-19 pandemic?’ With ‘kindness’ as the focus of Mental Health Awareness Week, we look at why it’s more important than ever for businesses to be kind

Before the pandemic, mental health problems within the UK workforce already cost employers big – almost £35 billion last year alone.

Now, with the pandemic increasing levels of anxiety and stress – there’s a reported 37% increase in mental health problems in the UK – employee wellbeing and mental health will be far longer term issues for organisations.

This week is Mental Health Awareness Week and the Mental Health Foundation has chosen ‘kindness’ as the theme.

Why kindness? Because of its ‘singular ability’ to strengthen relationships, develop community and deepen solidarity – a cornerstone of our individual and collective mental health, the Foundation says.

We hear of acts of kindness being done every day by individuals delivering food parcels, making scrubs for their local hospital, and of course the hero that is Colonel (formerly Captain) Tom Moore.

For organisations, you have to dig a little deeper among the stories and accusations of ‘profit before people’. In its Spring Update, Edelman’s Trust Barometer found that despite a four-point increase in trust in business and several high-profile actions taken by companies and CEOs, there is marked disappointment in how the private sector has performed during the crisis.

Half of people believe business is doing poorly, is mediocre, or is completely failing at putting people before profits; only 43% believe that companies are protecting their employees sufficiently from Covid-19, and 46% do not believe that business is helping smaller suppliers and business customers stay afloat.

Edelman calls this a moment of reckoning for business, which must now ‘deliver on the promise of stakeholder capitalism’.

The questions around ‘What did you do in the Covid-19 pandemic?’ are likely to be asked of CEOs for months to come – on team video calls, virtual town halls, and at AGMs.

As stakeholders and employees, we need to know – and see – that our employer is intrinsically kind, now more than ever.

Feelings about the workplace have a big impact on employee performance and attitude. Low morale results in a lack of engagement, lower productivity and lower retention rates. It’s also reflected in interactions with clients.

So how can communicators deepen solidarity and build a stronger sense of community to help organisations demonstrate that ‘people are before profits’?

Prising out those positive stories is one way. They are there. Stories of kindness run through the majority of organisations, from the big corporate acts to the countless little things that employees do.

Sequel is helping clients by kickstarting positivity campaigns, creating or repurposing content, channels and platforms to recognise individuals’ great work, thanks and acts of kindness that are happening every day under the radar.

Connecting employees wherever they are is also important. Use of mobile news apps are growing. Not as fast as business channels like Teams, Zoom or Yammer, but creating a trusted ‘one source of truth’ for employees in a time when media is on 24/7 – and not always accurate – is a priority.

And keeping an eye on the quality and volume of what’s communicated is the communicators’ responsibility.

Many employees are feeling there’s a blurring of boundaries between work life and home life, juggling family responsibilities, as well as overwhelming feelings of isolation and anxiety.

Communicators who have listening and feedback mechanisms to share insight with the business, who also have a comms plan and rhythm for communications, are demonstrating kindness.

Kindness in business is not a weakness. Surely, it’s an investment in business wellbeing – people and profits – at a time when what you do now, no matter how small, will be remembered for months to come?

For more details of Mental Health Awareness Week, click here.