Unilever’s key learnings on managing mental health in the workplace during COVID-19

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Unilever is committed to a holistic approach to wellbeing in the workplace. The company wants to enable its employees to have good mental and physical health - both for the personal development it brings employers as well as the business value it creates in terms of employee productivity and retention. 

As one of the founding partners of Heads Together and the Mental Health at Work Commitment, Unilever has a particular focus on mental health – recognising that this is especially important in times of change or uncertainty.

Unilever’s key learnings and approach on managing mental health in the workplace during COVID-19 has been as follows.

  1. Simplifying Communications and Resource Access:

COVID-19 has created a seismic shift in work and life behaviours for many employees, within a short period of time. Unilever found that their employees had less time to pro-actively search for and find support. To combat this, Unilever streamlined access to their support resources, and made them available in one place on a COVID-19 Health & Wellbeing Hub. The hub provides support for employees to take care of their own physical and mental wellbeing, as well as that of their teams and loved ones. They have also used different formats to get information to people, such as podcasts on key aspects of mental health like anxiety, burnout and isolation.

  1. Capability Guide:

One of Unilever’s first responses to the closing of their offices, was to create a ‘Capability Guide’ to support employees to adapt to their new ‘normal’. This simple tool provides top tips on managing time, staying positive, maintaining wellbeing, as well as managing team effectiveness.

  1. Resilience and Mindfulness:

Unilever launched a microsite with articles, videos and recorded sessions to guide mindfulness practices and exercises. This was in conjunction with 15 webinars introducing mindfulness and focusing on specific topics such as managing loss. Resources were created and collated to support employees to boost their resilience in a changing world.

  1. Virtual Community:

To encourage conversations about mental health and foster a sense of community whilst many employees work from home, Unilever launched virtual community meetings. In partnership with Frazzled Café, they launched their first virtual meeting with Ruby Wax, where more than 100 employees were given a virtual space to share their thoughts and feelings with each other and those requiring support were directed to their Occupational Health team and the online resources available to them.

Unilever’s top three learnings on managing mental health in the workplace during COVID-19 are:

      Simplify communications and make sure all resources are easily accessible

      Support and encourage employees to build resilience and practice mindfulness

      Foster a sense of community online and promote open discussions on wellbeing

The return to the workplace will be a critical moment, for Unilever’s people and for many others, and Unilever are making sure that mental health is given a key focus in all communications, and in discussions between line managers and their teams.

To find out more about Unilever’s health and wellbeing programmes in action, click here.