Articles - Supporting employee mental health and mitigating risk


In the current market, attracting and retaining talent is high on every organisation’s agenda. Overlay this risk with a workforce under mental health strain and your people risk strategies become even more critical. In a previous blog we explored some of the practical steps to help support and manage your employees’ mental health during the cost-of-living crisis and beyond.

 By Karla Gahan, Senior Consultant & Associate - Risk Advisory and Analytics at Barnett Waddingham

 In ‘Part 2’ we focus on what you need to consider from an organisational risk and resilience perspective.

 Identifying your risks
 Once you’ve considered your immediate people priorities and put in place some benefit measures to support your employees, it’s time to consider your longer term risks and how to manage them.

 It’s obvious that you can’t manage what you don’t know. So you need to start identifying the issues that will impact you in this area. For example, do you have key person or succession planning risks?

 Are there key activities, processes or services that rely on a single person? Does more than one person know and understand how to perform key tasks or processes? Have you documented the processes that deliver critical activities?

 Asking yourself these types of questions will form the basis of your response and mitigation strategies. If key individuals are under strain, you may find you’re unable to deliver critical activities, services or processes due to absence or people’s inability to function at full capacity. Or you may find them leaving the organisation and taking their organisational knowledge with them.

 While you might identify these types of issues as part of your risk management processes, equally you may already have some of this information captured as part of your business continuity and resilience strategies. If not, this is a good place to start.

 Assessing and analysing your risks
 Not every activity, service or process is critical, so determining priorities is essential. One way to do this is through Business Impact Analysis (BIA).

 Talking with people across your organisation will allow you to determine what is critical, as well as what you need to know and do, in order to deliver it. You can also use this opportunity to identify warning signs that individuals or teams are under pressure, and offer support.

 If particular tasks are causing additional stress or wellbeing issues for your employees, this process gives you the opportunity to uncover these risks.

 Once you have a picture of what is needed you can start formulating strategies to mitigate your risks and respond to any potential issues which may arise. By prioritising your critical activities, you can focus your resources and attention to the areas which need it most. This also demonstrates to your people that you value them and their wellbeing.

 You can find further advice on how to run BIAs or assess risks on the BW Risk portal which includes guidance, templates and checklists.

 Mitigation and response strategies
 To be resilient, you need to consider what you can do now as well as having plans and strategies in place to respond during a crisis.

 For example, understanding your critical activities services and processes means that you can ensure they’re documented, resourced properly and have response strategies or plans ready to use in the short, medium or long term if people are unwell due to mental health issues.

 You might be able to ensure extra people are trained to do critical tasks if the need arises due to staff absence or wellbeing concerns. Or perhaps change working patterns; for example, working from home can relieve the pressure on certain tasks.

 Remember that, while assessing these risks through the mental health and wellbeing lens, you must also consider the wider business continuity and crisis management plans you already have in place. Risks and incidents rarely exist in isolation. You need to consider response strategies that are robust enough to manage not only the wellbeing of your people, but also their personal resilience during an incident that will require them to ensure the continuity of critical activities.

 Testing and exercising your response strategies will enable you to do so, as well as highlighting any gaps in your resources and processes. It’s much better to know and understand if people are triggered by an exercise rather than learning this during a crisis.

 You can support them and make changes to your plans and strategies accordingly. You can find advice on how to design and run exercises on the BW Risk Portal.

 Improving business continuity performance
 Understanding how mental health and wellbeing risks affect your people is not a one-time or isolated activity. It forms part of your holistic approach to risk, resilience and business continuity management.

 As you learn lessons through the current economic and geopolitical circumstances, you will be able to adapt and enhance your ability to respond more effectively in the future, using the methods you apply now.

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