Mental health and the workplace aren’t mutually exclusive. Instead, they are directly related to one another. Good mental health in the office translates to better performance, productivity and overall morale. Whereas poor mental wellbeing is associated with more sick days and an increase in disability cost, according to American Psychiatric Association Foundation’s Center for Workplace Mental Health.
“My true belief is that without the mental and physical health of your teams, you don’t have a bottom line,” says Siemens Digital Industries Software ANZ CEO and Vice President Samantha Murray. “If staff aren’t in a good headspace, if they’re not looking out for each other or feeling passionate about their work, your bottom line will struggle. Their mental health is just as important as revenue.”
“My true belief is that without the mental and physical health of your teams, you don’t have a bottom line.” – Samantha Murray
A mental health advocate, Samantha says the biggest challenge for companies going forward during the COVID-19 pandemic will be effectively managing a hybrid workforce of both in-person and virtual teams. “We can’t underestimate the social and mental impact the sudden shift to remote working has had on people. One day we had a destination and an environment to go to where we’d be surrounded by colleagues and the next, we didn’t. And there wasn’t any warning,” she says.
“Managing this new hybrid workforce needs to take place while ensuring creativity, collaboration and innovation – critical elements to remaining relevant and competitive, especially in the tech industry – aren’t negatively impacted.”
Unfortunately, there’s not a one-size-fits-all approach that will work for every organisation. But luckily, there are some fundamental ingredients. “Flexibility is key here,” Samantha shares. “Listening to your employees, your customers and partners will help you mould the best model for your business.”
It’s also imperative to make communication a priority. “We may not have the ability to have those organic discussions in the office right now, so we have to be flexible with what we can do,” Samantha explains. “Fortunately, many of us have already been dealing with virtual teams interstate or across different countries for some time now, which has taught us some great methods and lessons in collaboration. Now, we must leverage this and expand it to our locally based teams.”
“If staff aren’t in a good headspace, if they’re not looking out for each other or feeling passionate about their work, your bottom line will struggle.” – Samantha Murray
COVID-19 has taken its toll on the business landscape across the world. And the biggest challenge for businesses as they continue to navigate this unprecedented time is mere survival. “To be able to pivot and twist given the current circumstances is crucial,” she stresses. “There is no doubt that how you worked pre COVID-19 is now very different to how you will work post COVID-19. Therefore, creating a new strategic vision or blueprint for your business is a must, as is ensuring that your employees can change quickly to different demands of the workplace.”
Seeing the pandemic as an opportunity, Samantha believes now is a great time to take a “good, hard look” at how a business is managed and implement changes for the better. “I doubt we will ever be given this type of opportunity again in our lifetime, so let’s embrace it,” she says.
She, for one, has taken this complex, ever-changing environment as a time to reflect on her own leadership style. “Several years ago, I completed a program at Cranlana Centre for Ethical Leadership and that’s when I first really started to examine my leadership style. Now COVID-19 has forced me to think about my style in a new context and about what will work today and tomorrow,” Samantha shares. “As I become increasingly adaptable to more complex environments and difficult decisions that I must make, my style is becoming more about resilience, intuition and most importantly, empathy.”