Pablo Vandenabeele, Bupa UK’s clinical director for mental health, reveals the wellbeing benefits of continuous professional development, and why all managers should encourage their team to do it while working from home.
Your days can feel very similar working remotely. One way to shake up your routine is to learn a new skill. Google keyword volumes show that many more of us turned to the internet to help expand our skillsets in 2020; searches for online learning were up 400%.
It’s important to remember that learning comes in forms beyond online courses. Taking the time to acquire new knowledge can open opportunities for your employees, team and business ‘ and boost wellbeing.
Before the pandemic, estimates show that 70 million work sick days were taken because of poor mental health. Alongside this, Bupa’s wellbeing census reported that one in four of us struggle with our overall wellbeing.
Unfortunately, the pandemic hasn’t done anything to help these statistics with eight in ten of us experiencing poor mental health symptoms during lockdown. As a manager, keeping connected with your team and helping where you may offer a much-needed boost.
Taking care of your team’s health and wellbeing is more important now than ever before. Though no two employee’s circumstances will be the same, research shows that providing opportunities for further learning and education can help to improve our mental wellbeing.
How does learning affect mental resilience?
Taking time to keep learning throughout life is an important way to maintain good mental health and wellbeing. Getting your head around a new topic can be challenging, but pushing yourself to pick up something different and improve your skills can be very rewarding.
Through learning, we expand our minds and experiences which can help us to gain further insight into ourselves and the world ‘ these are all key to help strengthen our mental wellbeing.
The sense of pride you get from learning something new can help you to feel better about yourself. That boost in self-esteem can spur you to feel more confident and better prepared for future challenges, which can contribute to a better experienced and more resilient team.
Learning can also nurture social connections ‘ something that’s especially important at a time where we’re physically distanced from one another. Spending time together remotely to acquire new skills is important for our wellbeing and mental health and can improve our bonds.
Discovering something new or revisiting an old interest can mix things up if your routine is feeling monotonous. During periods of social isolation, getting involved with a skill can give us a sense of purpose and hope.
How can I introduce remote learning to my team?
As a manager, you can incorporate learning into daily life in lots of different ways. Firstly, it’s important to reiterate that further learning is an option for your employees. After all, some employees may find that their time is more stretched than ever at the moment, especially if they’re home-schooling or caring for someone vulnerable.
Lead by example
Show your team that learning is important for all by exploring your own opportunities for growth. Take the opportunity to share any examples to encourage and reinforce to your team that they can do the same.
If an employee says they want to learn a new skill, work with them to schedule time in their diary for them to be able to do so. Not only will this help them to better manage their time, it will also reiterate that you see this is a valuable part of their work.
Think beyond formal courses
Learning doesn’t have to be qualifications-led or expensive. Creating a culture where personal growth is encouraged and acknowledged can be generated through both formal and informal learning types.
Training courses, development days and workshops are good ways to introduce formal learning opportunities to your team if budget allows. However, informal on-the-job learning can be just as effective; think problem-solving meetings, sharing resources, lunch and learn sessions and mentorship schemes. It’s all about sharing knowledge and making it readily available for all, regularly.
Does it have to be work related?
Some of your employees may find further learning a difficult task due to home responsibilities, for example, working parents. Don’t forget that any kind of learning can give your mental health a boost ‘ even if it’s simply learning a new craft with your children, it all counts towards improving your skillsets.
Make development a possibility
Continuing to learn, both in and outside of work, can help your employees to reap the benefits of better mental health. This can make them to feel better prepared for future challenges and play a part in strengthening your team’s performance.
Changing your team’s culture is difficult to achieve overnight. With a manager’s encouragement and support, learning can become central to the team’s performance.
Promoting a team culture that places value on self-development shows your employees that you care about their wellbeing and their progression within your business. Experienced and talented employees will also help to improve the quality of your company’s productivity and work.