Three ways to improve culture and boost employees’ mental health

'It’s in the best interests of financial services firms to prioritise culture'

Financial services need to work hard to improve their culture and support the wellbeing of employees, with months of lockdown leaving many employees feeling lonely and anxious, said Olivia Fahy, head of culture at compliance consultancy UK-based TCC.

Speaking on Mental Health Awareness Week, Fahy said company managements should be “working hard to identify the fault lines and develop a positive, fair, and nurturing culture” as the pandemic has taken a heavy toll on wellbeing of so many of us.

“Although the easing of government restrictions means that we can gradually return to the office, employers need to be aware that work life won’t just go back to normal. Many employees will still be battling loneliness, anxiety and stress built up over the months of lockdown, and the new world of hybrid working is likely to create its own stressors too.”

She added the UK regulator the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has highlighted that failing to consider employees’ mental wellbeing is a business risk and “it’s in the best interests of financial services firms to prioritise culture.”  

Below, Fahy shares her advice to business to improve culture and focus on focus on employee wellbeing, especially in a hybrid working world.

  1. Get employee insight

“While businesses will be getting plans in place to return to the office, many companies have already committed to an array of flexible working policies, establishing remote working as a permanent feature. But for this to be a success, it’s important that employers get a sense of what their employees really want and need from these policies and how it will impact them. Getting that employee insight is key, so that organisations put policies in place that address the true needs of employees, rather than the business’ perception of what is needed.

“What policies do parents need to support them with childcare? Do employees believe flexible working will genuinely be encouraged, or will it just become lip service as life returns to normal? How can a good work-life balance be encouraged? Surveys are a good way to gather information from employees on what will actually benefit them going forward.”

See also: – Quilter offers mental health talks to advisers

  • Maintain good culture through hard times

“The onset of the pandemic put businesses into crisis mode as they focused on immediately adapting to remote working. There was a concern that culture would fall to the bottom of the agenda but, instead, many organisations saw the valuable role that it can play in shaping the right behaviours in a virtual environment, and embraced the opportunity to flatten hierarchies and build more collaborative work environments. It’s important that businesses continue to focus on driving healthy cultures as we move out of lockdown.

“Countless recent reports have shown that homeworking has taken its toll, with the fusion of work and home life leading to increased hours, work-related stress, and exhaustion. As a result, large UK businesses are taking steps to address working from home fatigue and burnout, with the likes of HSBC recently offering Zoom-free Fridays for all staff. While economic hardship makes it challenging to focus on culture, healthy culture improves productivity, retention, and it can lead to better business performance too.”

  • Foster psychological safety

“Psychological safety means team members feel free to express their ideas and opinions without fear of embarrassment or punishment. It is a key element of an inclusive culture and allows diversity of thought to flourish. As working norms shift and the workplace continues to be decentralised, it’s vital that all employees feel they can share ideas, questions and concerns and vital that they are listened to.

“A younger woman of colour might surface a different insight to that of an older white man, for example, and it could be the difference between identifying a risk before it crystallises and only spotting it when it’s too late. Creating the conditions for psychological safety can also lead to greater innovation, new ideas and better problem-solving, so it’s worthwhile for businesses.”


Natalie Kenway

Natalie is editor in chief at MA Financial covering ESG Clarity, Portfolio Adviser and International Adviser. She was previously global head of ESG insight for ESG Clarity and has been an investment journalist...