Looking after the mental health of employees during the Coronavirus crisis

With the global pandemic taking hold of our daily lives and completely changing our routines, levels of sleep and stress now more than ever the subject of mental health is of the highest importance. The pandemic has far-reaching consequences for society and the workplace beyond the immediate crisis. Its potential impact on people’s mental health is one of the most pressing issues now facing organisations.

When life is ‘normal’, the subject of mental health and wellbeing can sometimes be taken for granted and is not something we always consider to be the highest priority. But, let me ask you this. If you broke your arm or leg, would you just ignore it and put it to the back of your mind and let it heal itself? The answer is obviously no, and your mental health is just as important and needs to be taken care of. During this time, you need to make sure you are being kind to yourself as well as to others in the same way you would if a bone was broken.

Increased stress due to Covid-19

Right now, both employers and employees are facing huge stresses and challenges in the workplace from reduced sales, loss of productivity, sickness levels and increased uncertainty in relation to job stability. Employers, leaders and HR teams are working hard to ensure that businesses can still run as smoothly as possible with staff working remotely, keeping their teams engaged and focused whilst trying to the plan ahead for the future which as we all know is a mammoth task in these unprecedented times.

The employees that are working from home and those who have been furloughed also have huge changes to deal with. Getting a new routine in place, juggling home life and work-life all under the same roof. Keeping themselves on task and motivated. Completely coming out of their comfort zone, becoming ‘lone workers’ or even just trying to make sure they’re moving and eating properly, and for lots of people the additional pressure of home-schooling their children.

Number of mental health conditions on the rise

In March, prior to lockdown, the CIPD launched its twentieth survey report examining trends in sickness absence, health and well-being. The research found that three-fifths (60%) of organisations reported an increase in common mental health conditions (such as anxiety and depression) among employees over the last year. The pandemic will no doubt exacerbate these conditions for many with more people working from home, relying more on technology and with less access to face-to-face contact with their manager and colleagues. Working entirely from home will also place new demands on people and it’s vital that employers and managers think carefully about how they will support people working in new, flexible and remote ways.

Webinar on mental health

Recently, I held one of our HR Huddle events through the magic of Zoom, we were extremely lucky to be joined by our guest speaker, Kat Marlow from Positive Change. Kat specialises in Mental Health, Counselling, Coaching and Psychotherapy, she has a wealth of knowledge when it comes to mental wellbeing. The topic of the webinar was how we can help support and manage the mental health of our employees during this crisis.

As we went through the session, the key recurring element that came to light was the power of communication. More than ever, right now, it’s so important for you to communicate with your employees. Be aware that your people will all have a lot of different fears and that their perceptions are their current reality, which may differ from your perception of reality. Kat suggested that emails are brilliant for communicating with larger numbers of people but can sometimes lack the emotive side of what you want to communicate. To overcome this, she suggested putting short videos together to share news, messages and communications. Employees will get to see you, hear you, understand you so much more, the video simulates meeting in person as much as we can now and something as simple as this could ease their worries. Be clear and concise and build a balanced picture of where you are at with things at the moment. If you’d like to have a view or listen to our session, please click on the link below, there’s some great information there and could be really beneficial to you and your team https://youtu.be/Cnd5rF52MtU

Virtual HRHuddle Mental Health of Employees during COVID 19

Supporting employee’s mental wellbeing

In larger organisations increasing responsibility is now placed online managers to support employee’s mental well-being but it is essential that those line managers are equipped with the knowledge and skills to support people’s health. A focus needs to be given to the training and support line managers receive so they can rise to this challenge. Managers should not be expected to be health experts but they do need to recognise the value of health and well-being at work, be able to spot early warning signs of ill health, have the competence and confidence to have sensitive conversations, direct employees to appropriate sources of help and actively promote attendance and well-being.  It’s also important to remember that Managers’ own health and well-being could be at risk if they are being charged with responsibilities they are not competent to carry out, such as dealing with complex ill health issues, preventing work-related stress, sensitively managing a return-to-work and implementing effective workplace adjustments. To carry out their role effectively, managers need the behaviours, education and capability they will only gain from receiving the right training, support and expert guidance.

What should employers be doing?

We would urge all employers to take the following steps during this crisis:

  • support and guide line-managers so that they feel equipped to have sensitive and supportive discussions with their teams
  • encourage people where possible to continue with normal daily routines which will support their overall wellbeing
  • encourage employees to create a plan for themselves which could include how they are going to distinguish between work and home, ensuring they have a designated space for work, exercise, checking in with friends and family, meal planning, gratitude journals or using this time to develop a new/existing hobby
  • remind managers and leaders about the importance of communicating regularly with their team and asking how they are (try short videos for a more personal approach)
  • encourage staff to practise self-care such as a healthy routine for diet, sleep and relaxation
  • promote existing health and well-being benefits and support, for example signposting people to their counselling helpline.
  • set up online mental health and wellbeing courses to be accessible to everyone

This is a topic that I could write pages and pages about, but I think the most important thing to think of and remember is to be kind and patient with yourself and employees. Pick up the phone where possible, check in with them and give them the reassurance that they need.

At the moment, I am welcoming conversations with business owners and HR professionals to see if there is any advice or guidance I can give or pass on. If you’d like to arrange a phone  or video call please contact me on eshelton@vanillarecruitment.co.uk

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We recruit throughout the East Midlands covering Leicestershire, Northamptonshire, Rutland and the surrounding areas, especially Market Harborough, Lutterworth, Leicester, Corby and Kettering. We help people find their perfect job and match suitable job seekers with businesses looking to hire the best candidates across our five specialisms – SalesMarketingAccountancy & FinanceHR and Office