Employers Taking Care of Staff Mental Health

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Saturday 10th October 2020 was World Mental Health Day, a day each year that focuses on raising the awareness of mental health and how important it is.

The COVID-19 pandemic has raised many questions and elevated various topics over the past six months, undoubtedly one of the biggest impacts it has had is on people’s mental health. With lockdown, the continually changing restrictions, working from home and furlough there has been a lot to understand and navigate through. This has left many people with worries in both their personal and professional lives which has led to people’s mental health suffering.

Mental health, be it positive or negative, is a key factor in so many aspects of life and impacts how people react to different situations that they may find themselves in. The unpredictable and uncontrollable nature of the coronavirus pandemic has left people feeling somewhat on edge and unsure about what the future holds in both the short and the long term. A recent HR Review article detailing results of research carried out by Nuffield Health has revealed a staggering 80% of respondents (4 in 5) have reported that COVID-19 has had a negative effect on their mental health. Of those respondents:

  • 25% said that it was difficult to cope with the feeling of loneliness and isolation due to not being able to see colleagues with the rise of remote working
  • 30% said that they were unable to separate their home life from their work life
  • 36% said they had a lack of boundaries as they felt the need to always be at their work computer

While all of the above is understandable at a time like this, employers have a duty of care to their employees to check in and ensure they are coping with the ever-changing situation. An article by Personnel Today reveals an increase in feelings of anxiety among UK workers following a survey carried out by mental health organisation TalkOut. Of the 1500 participants:

  • 85% said their mental wellbeing had not been among their employer’s priorities during the pandemic
  • 31% said they were having fewer one-to-one discussions with their manager than before the pandemic
  • 15% said they wouldn’t approach their organisation’s HR department to speak about a mental health concern they had
  • 17% said they would not talk to anybody at all regarding mental health

If you take a look on places like LinkedIn and Twitter there are status updates from people praising their employers for the effort that has gone into encouraging staff to look after themselves, however it is evident from the statistics above that much more work is needed in this area. In these times, staff want to feel appreciated, valued and not forgotten. The Mental Health Foundation advises 10 steps to follow to support mental health in the workplace:

1. Talk about your feelings – Talking helps, encourage your staff you speak to someone about how they are feeling. This could be a family member, a friend or reaching out to a mental health organisation

2. Keep active – It’s amazing what exercise can do for the mind, it helps shift focus onto something else, helps with sleep and rest and generally makes everyone feel better. The release of endorphins after exercise helps move the body and mind into a more positive place

3. Eat well – Encourage your staff to eat a well-balanced diet, there is no denying that most people enjoy a takeaway at the weekends but balance that out with good, healthy food during the week that gives the body the fuel it needs

4. Drink sensibly – Obviously not during work hours, however on the weekends and in the evenings when alcohol is accessible encourage staff to stay away from alcohol if it’s only a bid to help change their mood. By all means enjoy a glass or two of wine but it shouldn’t be over done

5. Keep in touch – Stay communicated with your staff, especially during these times of remote working and uncertainty. Arrange for a quick 5-10-minute call every couple of days, or a weekly call where everyone gets involved

6. Ask for help – Let your staff know that they can ask for help. If they are struggling at home or have a particularly heavy workload, let them know you are there to listen to their concerns

7. Take a break – Encourage staff to take regular breaks, it could be 5 minutes to have a cup of tea away from the desk, reading a book before bed, going a walk or a run during lunchbreaks or taking a weekend to explore somewhere new. Everyone needs a little ‘me time’

8. Do something you’re good at – Everyone has a passion or a hobby, encourage your staff to do more of what they enjoy and more of what they know they are good at. It will allow them to get lost in time and have that sense of accomplishment which will boost their confidence and self esteem

9. Accept who you are – The wonderful thing about life is that each person is unique, everyone brings something different to the team and making employees feel valued for what they bring is a must. When a person fully accepts who they are it presents so many more opportunities to grow, learn and develop

10. Care for others – Lead by example and show your staff to care for others. Check in on your staff and encourage them to check in on each other. Those who live close could meet up for a socially distanced lunch time coffee, the whole team could arrange a virtual tea party or simply just call and have a chat, you never know it might be exactly what that person needs

An employee that feels valued and cared for will prove to be invaluable to the team. They will have a desire to perform for the company and the management that has taken the time to look after them.

The sources of the statistical information in this article is from the HR Review article titled “How can employers protect their workers’ mental health?” and the Personnel Today article titled “Half receive no mental health support from employer since pandemic hit”.