Organised online socialising unhelpful, say mental health experts

Instead of booking more team social occasions online, recruitment bosses who help their staff to get away from their screens more often could be contributing to their improved mental health, health coach Michelle Flynn has advised a webinar audience.

Speaking at a Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC) mental health week discussion online today (11 May 2021), Flynn acknowledged that over the past year the team pub nights and quizzes have lost their appeal as social events. “Sometimes I say, rather than booking more stuff in, why don’t we just let people go home an hour earlier? Let them have a Friday afternoon off or come in a bit later on a Monday morning, so that it’s not always about trying to get people together more and more on the screen – but actually getting them away from the screen,” Flynn said.

Many in the workforce are suffering from digital fatigue, suggested fellow panellist Hazel Craig, senior data analytics and wellbeing consultant at Howden Employee Benefits and Wellbeing (Howden Insurance Brokers). She said: “Sometimes companies can think that they’re doing the right thing by bringing in more social events and trying to support their employees in that way, but perhaps actually offering that hour away from the laptop to try and reduce that digital fatigue is really important.”

Flynn agreed, going on to say: “People are so busy – particularly in the recruitment industry, you’ve been swopping back and forward, from no one’s hiring to now everybody’s hiring… so people are burnt out, absolutely exhausted – and then there’s the invite to a book club, and people are saying: ‘When am I even going to get the chance to read the book, never mind discuss it.’”

Hosting the event, REC CEO Neil Carberry agreed with the expert speakers that people need to think about “the headspace you want to be in for different meetings”, and that the phone – as opposed to a screen – can be a better communications channel for some conversations. 

“I do all of my one-to-one coaching on the phone, and I encourage people to go out for a walk,” Flynn said. “There’s something about not staring at someone in the face when you’re wanting to open up about something that might be difficult… Just go for a virtual walk together, and you might find that someone opens up a lot more.”

During the hour-long sessions, the panel also discussed the pros and cons of having mental health first-aiders within the workforce; bringing staff back into the workplace; and how recruitment leaders need to take care of themselves as well as their staff.


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