Since the Coronavirus pandemic more people are talking about mental health, and recognising the ill effects it can have on people’s day-to-day lives. Common anxieties as a result of COVID-19, including health, finances and social isolation, have contributed to poor mental health across the nation. For some time mental health awareness has been creeping up the agenda and the pandemic has provided a platform for acknowledging more can be done when it comes to addressing mental health. Whilst there is still a way to go before it is given the recognition it requires, some progress has been made and a number of individuals and businesses are starting to confront it face on.
A people centred approach
Businesses are undoubtedly in a period of uncertainty and are facing a huge number of challenges. What is clear is that Coronavirus is not going to disappear overnight, and longer term strategies will be required to remain competitive and come out of this on the other side. With many believing that there will be long-lasting effects on mental health as a result of COVID-19, employers need to be mindful that they can play their part in raising awareness and supporting employees who are struggling with poor mental health.
With lines between work and home during the pandemic being more blurred the requirement for employers to provide support for mental health and wellbeing was vital. Many have recognised that putting employee wellbeing high on their agenda is important to help staff remain healthy, focussed and motivated. Ensuring the workforce feels valued and putting them at the centre of the company will not only help employees but the business itself too. With the current challenges and effect on the bottom line, it is sometimes difficult to recognise the bigger picture. However more employers are encouraging open conversations about wellbeing in light of COVID-19 so it has allowed employees to feel more comfortable approaching them with any mental health issues.
Managing work related stress
Working from home, a return to the workplace and COVID-Secure plans are all possible factors of work related stress. Work related stress can exacerbate existing mental health conditions. Employers are legally obliged to protect the health, safety and wellbeing of their employees, so should help their employees manage stress and make adjustments for those suffering with a mental health condition. Health & Safety Managers will already be aware of these important responsibilities before the Coronavirus pandemic. However companies who go above and beyond their duties have an opportunity to create a healthy workplace where good mental health and wellbeing is part of the company culture.
Throughout the pandemic many companies have introduced flexi-working, virtual coffee meets, more one-to-one meetings and have stepped up communication through a variety of methods to ensure employees are informed, engaged and motivated. Managers have had to quickly adapt to leading remote teams and to look out for any signs of their team members suffering with stress or ill mental health. Health & Safety Managers have had to complete COVID-19 risk assessments, which also take into account the mental wellbeing of employees.
The Time to Change campaign has seen over 1,500 organisations employing over four million people across England pledge to change the way mental health is thought about in the workplace, based on an action plan that incorporates the core standards recommended by the Thriving at Work Report released in 2017. It is encouraging that many businesses have chosen to place employee mental health high on the agenda.
As businesses have started the long recovery process it is important for staff to remain productive. However there will be a loss in productivity if employees struggling with their mental health are not working at their maximum or are unable to work at all. Pre-Covid depression or anxiety accounted for 44% of all work-related ill health cases and 54% of all working days lost due to ill health (2018/19), according to the HSE. With concerns of greater mental health issues around the corner it would be wise for employers to address how they can play their part in removing the stigma surrounding ill mental health and promoting instrumental change to workplaces so employees feel supported. For many organisations who haven’t known where to start with addressing mental health at work, the Coronavirus pandemic has provided an opportunity to start talking to employees about their wellbeing and provide support mechanisms to help them carry on with their jobs. In the long term this will hopefully lead to mental health considerations becoming part of the fabric of every company.
The truth is, we still have some way to go for mental health to be on the top of every business’s agenda. But with mental health continuing to hit the headlines, businesses leading by example and the government recognising mental health as an important issue, more positive change could be around the corner.
If you missed it read our blog on how to empower your employees to cope with uncertainty.
iHASCO have a number of online mental health and wellbeing training courses to support your employees. Providing training is a great first step to promote good mental health and wellbeing. It can open up discussions and remove any stigma surrounding ill mental health. Plus encouraging employees to take care of themselves and build resilience will not only benefit them as individuals but also help them in the workplace. Fostering a culture of understanding and support will not only promote trust but create a healthier working environment.
Sign up for a free trial of our mental health and wellbeing training bundle today!