Staff networks can boost belonging, inclusivity and ease workplace mental health issues

With many employees nervous about returning to the office, could staff networks ease anxieties?

Stress and anxiety became more acute among workforces since the outbreak of COVID-19, and with lockdown easing and some employers asking staff to return to the office, the unease continues.

According to research from ‘National Day for Staff Networks‘, nearly half (46%) of office workers are nervous about returning to the office, while 36% have struggled with their mental health since the pandemic began.

The findings are released in timing with the “fifth annual National Day for Staff Networks”, which “is calling on employers to help established networks to support staff back into the workplace, as more and more employees start returning to the office.”

To combat the mental health pandemic as lockdown laws ease, they are asking employers “to collaborate with their staff networks supporting colleagues as they return to the workplace.”

Their research shows that staff networks can be a mental health lifeline to employees where 68% of office workers said they are “beneficial” while 32% said they’ve “had their mental health supported in the last year by their staff network.”

The research also revealed a high demand for staff network support from workers during this period of transition where 51% of office workers not in a network said they’d “like one to support their mental health,” while 37% said they “feel it would support them returning to work.”

The findings also prove that staff networks can help businesses retain talent and increase performance, where 34% of members said “it makes them want to stay with their employer,” while 35% said they believed it boosts productivity.

Furthermore, 33% said that staff networks emphasised feelings of belonging, while 34% said it gave an organisation a culture of inclusivity.

Cherron Inko-Tariah MBE, Founder of National Day for Staff Networks, said: “Today marks the fifth annual celebration of Staff Networks, and after a year like no other, there has arguably never been a greater need for the support they provide.

“People have been at home during a crisis trying to work, and it’s been tough. Networks were the first responders – acting as lifelines for many office workers who naturally felt disengaged from their employer and excluded from the work community. No one should feel that they do not have the support of their employer in these uncertain times, especially when almost all of 50 of the UK’s biggest employers questioned by the BBC have said they do not plan to bring staff back to the office full-time.

“Staff networks provide employees from underrepresented groups with a safe space, a voice, support, advice, and guidance. This support from peers and their employer allows employees to feel a sense of belonging.

“We are calling on employers to refresh investment in their staff networks, think again about how staff networks are resourced so that they are empowered to help staff back into the workplace. A representative staff network offers critical and timely support, making people feel safe, valued, and respected. This encourages improved mental wellbeing which delivers a positive impact on the productivity, potential, and progression of people in the organisation.”

The National Day for Staff Networks Campaign will “celebrate staff networks and their employers who already embrace their contribution,” and ask organisations that haven’t to get involved. To find out more, visit their website.
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