This week is Mental Health Awareness Week. Research has revealed that the number of employees reporting mental health worries is up 24% since May 2020.
Numerous lockdowns have resulted in a significant increase in the number of staff reporting mental health concerns over the course of the year – now, more than half (51%) of employees have reported a mental health concern compared to this time last year.
A quarter of employees say their employer has not checked the state of their wellbeing during the pandemic, despite swathes of evidence that shows the crisis has had a detrimental effect on workers’ mental health.
The pandemic has, understandably, had a direct impact on employee wellbeing and specifically on mental and financial health. Tackling this and providing the support needed, even as the majority of employees continue to work remotely, is an area of growing importance for organisations.
What do employers need to do?
The simplest most significant thing an employer can do is to make time for conversations with their staff. Regular check ins, enquiring how they are, how they are feeling, how happy they are on a scale of 1 to 10 is a sure fire first step in the process of creating an open culture where staff feel they are able to talk about their mental health.
Further actions to take include the following:
• Communication: make sure managers have regular one to ones with their team – regularity encourages a deeper relationship which means employees are more likely to open up about mental health issues.
• Keep the conversation going: encourage an open culture where employees feel they can talk about their mental health. Mentioning it once is not going to have an impact. Find multiple opportunities to incorporate the subject into the day to day.
• Workplace policies: introduce a mental health at work policy to ensure staff know the support that is available, the way mental health in the workplace is managed and provide emergency contacts.
• First aiders: introduce mental health first aider training by asking for volunteers from all levels within the company. They are trained to identify signs of ill-health and so will be able spot vulnerable employees and those who may be burnt out. #
• Awareness: if you notice an employee behaving differently ask them if everything is alright. Even if they say they are fine remind them that you are there to help and there are resources available to them.
• Employee assistance helplines: sign up to one of the many companies offering benefits to your staff which usually include employee helplines and counselling…’Perkbox’ is one worth considering.
• Time off: encourage staff to maintain a routine – planning their time and taking their holidays.
• Workloads under control: ensure employees are not working excessive hours and have a healthy work-life balance.
• Positive mental health: encourage positive mental health by arranging mental health awareness training, workshops or appointing mental health ‘champions’ who staff can talk to.
• Training: provide training covering topics such as managing stress, mindfulness and personal resilience, as well as training for managers and senior staff on supporting employees.
• Technology: promote the use of technology for both work and socialising and encourage staff to maintain informal discussions while working remotely….’Slack’ is another one worth considering.
While there have been some really encouraging and inspirational moves from employers to support the mental wellbeing of their staff during the pandemic, we are now facing longer-term stresses that businesses need to prepare for – in particular, the effects of long-Covid and a possible mental health pandemic that could impact our people for a number of years unless we prepare and take action quickly.
We need to embrace impactful, courageous and difficult conversations if we are to support our talent in the new world of work. Making time to talk now could safeguard the wellbeing of our workforces in the future.
To reiterate – regular wellbeing check-ins with staff are a vital way to support your employees’ mental health during the pandemic and beyond and the BEST starting point. I would urge you to adopt this simple practice today.
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