Supporting Wellbeing and Line Managers

Intro: L&D has been hugely instrumental in helping organisations transition into lockdown and move whole swathes of the working population into remote working and learning. As we move through lockdown and start transitioning out again, that will bring new challenges for L&D and organisations. We wanted to find out how L&D thinks it has performed these past few months, what’s gone well, what hasn’t, what plans it is making now and why, so we ran a short, in-depth survey of senior L&D professionals. A wide range of senior L&D professionals, from a range of industries took part in the ‘Relevance of L&D’ survey. The survey covered four key areas: business alignment, how equipped L&D has been to respond, wellbeing, and equipping managers. The results made for some very interesting reading, which we would like to share with you.

This second post looks at employee wellbeing and how well-equipped line managers are to support the workforce – you can find the first post here:

Responding to Covid-19 (2/2): Supporting wellbeing and line managers

Employee wellbeing has shot right up the agenda this year because of Covid-19 and lockdown. L&D has a vital role to play here, supporting workforces by creating and curating content to help people work and learn remotely, ensuring the right digital tools are in place and that people know how to use them, and helping support employees when they move back into the workplace. A big part of this has been facilitating really good wellbeing support and signposting employees towards relevant resources.

Another group of people who also have an important role to play in terms of employee wellbeing are, of course, line managers. But, do they have the skills and resources to help employees through these challenging times? Are they empathetic? Are they able to initiate conversations about wellbeing now and in the future as employees start returning to the workplace? Do they need additional support themselves?

Employee wellbeing and the importance of equipping managers to deal with the psychological fallout of Covid-19 and lockdown are the focus of the second half of our in-depth L&D survey. Both topics are key priorities for L&D teams right now, as our survey demonstrates.

Employee wellbeing:

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Supporting employees’ wellbeing is one of the biggest lockdown challenges for businesses, according to our survey participants. Many of them said much effort has already gone into implementing or boosting wellbeing support and communicating it to employees. The responses to the question, ‘How satisfied are you at your team’s response to supporting employees during lockdown?’ show that employee wellbeing has been a key concern. “We listened. We’ve communicated often, people feel informed and cared for,” said one respondent. Another said “We initially focused on support with tips on working from home, and for those few who had to be in the office, how to be safe. We’ve focused on mental health and wellbeing, as well as resilience and leadership in challenging times.”

When asked if their organisation had wellbeing support in place to help people with the psychological aspects of returning to work, most respondents said “yes”, although some organisations have obviously done a lot more than others. “Comms have been very regular, set up wellbeing e-learning modules and a Covid-specific wellbeing site,” said one respondent.

Wellbeing gaps:

However, dig a bit deeper into our findings and some gaps emerge. We identified two main problems. Firstly, in some organisations L&D is not involved in wellbeing discussions or planning. “This is not currently part of our remit,” said one respondent. And “This is currently sitting with HR and hasn’t come across to L&D yet,” said another.

Secondly, some organisations/L&D are just focusing on the current situation and are not yet planning for the resumption of office life. “Still working on that – after we agree what return to work will look like.”

Equipping managers:

There is general agreement that managers are critical to employee wellbeing. The majority of survey participants expect managers in particular to determine which people need wellbeing support and what kind of support they will need, although HR also plays a strong role here. The majority also think that managers will need support and up-skilling themselves in order to deal effectively with a multitude of employee wellbeing issues.

Interestingly, half of the respondents thought they could have done more to support managers during lockdown. Just under half thought they had done all they could, with responses such as, “Running weekly leadership-led round tables/leadership espressos”“Regular communication, supporting them to support their teams,” and “Turned our manager forum virtual, created an online space to collaborate, and bite-size monthly sessions.”

Ongoing support:

Looking forward, to when lockdown restrictions ease further, respondents were asked if they had provided any training or tools for managers to help them re-orientate employees when they return to work. A third have, but over half (58%) haven’t provided anything yet.

When asked what support respondents felt line managers needed to help them manage the workforce returning to work, a lot talked about the ability to be empathetic and flexible. “Training in fundamental skill sets in how to be an empathetic and effective manager/leader,” said one. “Listening, dealing with ambiguity, adapting style and approach (EI and empathy)” said another and lastly, “Help to support anxious employees. Helping them to think differently when it comes to people working more flexibly.”


What these insights tell us is that although employee wellbeing is a key priority for learning teams and for organisations, and many of them have put a lot of resource into this area, the results are a bit patchy. We have all gone through huge change and it’s not over yet. More needs to be done to ensure employees can transition smoothly back into the workplace or continue working at home if that is what they want. And more needs to be done to equip managers with the skills and attitudes to successfully manage through the complexity and ambiguity now and in the future.

About the author – Cathy Hoy:

Passionate about finding new opportunities in learning, embracing new technology and innovative approaches to development.

Cathy decided after 16 years working in various senior L&D roles for a number of fantastic companies, to set up her own business. She now helps in-house L&D teams to develop their capability, identify and promote their brand and strategy and help them align more closely to the needs of the business.

Cathy also works with Line Managers and leaders to help them develop and coach their teams to better embed learning into the work flow. Cathy believes in developing people through multiple touch points to create connected learning journeys and to ensure learning has a better chance of embedding.

Cathy is a Fellow of the LPI and also an approved accreditation mentor.

Connect with Cathy on LinkedIn

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