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Why Did The BBC Send Their Staff to a Course On How to Drink Water?

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(Full article posted as it is behind a subscription paywall)

Do you need a class on how to drink water? Do your employees? It must be harder than we imagine, because the UK’s British Broadcasting Company (BBC) thought it was a good idea to offer a training course for their employees on how to do it.

The course was one of many that the taxpayer-supported BBC offered in order to support the mental and physical health of their employees. According to The Sun, the company promised attendees that the course would help them “identify the importance of being fully hydrated and find practical ways to achieve this state every day” and that it will also “help understand how being fully hydrated will improve health, well-being and performance.”

About 30 people actually attended this online class — heavy drinkers, I assume — and frankly, if I had the opportunity, I would’ve loved to have checked it out. Always learning, right?

Obviously, this seems way overboard, and once news of the class became public, the BBC took its fair share of drubbing in the media. Yes, a class on drinking water seems a little silly, but any education you can provide as an employer that can help your employees’ mental health is critical. Especially now.

That’s because mental health, particularly because of the yearlong pandemic lockdown, has become a major issue. So major that nearly half of U.S. workers are suffering from mental health issues since the pandemic hit, according to one recent survey, and more than 10% are suffering from serious mental illness.

Many companies are aware of the problem and are taking action. Admittedly, I could find none that are offering courses on how to drink water, but according to a CNBC report, energy giant BP asks its employees about their mental well-being in regular surveys, Starbucks offers “virtual therapy” for stress relief, and Bank of America provides telemedicine options for support.

“The pandemic has taken its toll on employees especially in the areas of emotional and social wellbeing,” Regina Ihrke, wellbeing leader, North America, at Willis Towers Watson said in new report on the topic. “In fact, the impact is so great that many employers expect these effects will continue in a post-vaccine environment. Therefore, many employers are now acting with urgency as they look to take their wellbeing programs to the next level. To achieve this transformation, they will ramp up listening to their employee needs, communication efforts and realignment of benefit programs with a focus on mental health and caregiving.”

The Willis Towers Watson survey found that more than half of respondents , which included 494 companies that employ more than 6.4 million workers, reported rising stress or burnout as the biggest wellbeing challenge connected to the pandemic. Meanwhile, 40% cited higher mental health-related claims as a top challenge.

As your business hopefully returns back to normal at some point this year, it’s extremely important that you pay close attention to the psychological wellness of your people. Ask how they’re doing. Offer more time off. Make resources available to your staff. Keep an eye on their stress levels. Be a little more empathetic. Spend a little extra time and money on this. It’ll pay off in a more productive, happier workforce.

Oh, and keep plenty of water around. But you can skip the class on how to drink it.


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