Written by Simon Benford-Blows
Mental health has become a major workplace topic and with a surge in anxiety caused by the COVID-19 outbreak, managing and supporting mental health at work has never been more crucial.
While the majority of workplaces were asked to work from home, or shut down, key workers have been asked to continue going to work. Many services are also under the additional strain of more demand, which could lead to longer hours and stressful working days. This can all take a toll on our mental health and wellbeing, but it’s more crucial than ever to look after ourselves in these uncertain times.
A YouGov survey has highlighted how the outbreak has impacted the overall mood in the UK, with 48% of Brits feeling stressed and 42% feeling frustrated.
As one of the leading causes of absenteeism, mental health at work is already a big focus in the UK workplace. One in four employees in the UK have suffered from mental health issues at some point, facing burnout, fatigue, changing moods, stress, anxiety and reduced focus. So, with mental health at the forefront of business considerations now is the time for businesses to place a sharper focus on talking about employee mental health, implementing processes and support infrastructures to help support employees be it either working in the office or remotely.
Understanding stress is really important for businesses, management, as well as employees as everyone is under additional pressures. To help explain, stress is your body’s reaction to help you deal with pressure or threats. It is sometimes called a ‘fight or flight’ response. Some stress can be useful and keep us motivated to take action and complete tasks, but too much can have a negative effect on our mental health. Your stress hormone levels usually return to normal once the pressure or threat has passed.
Mental health UK provide a really good visualisation ‘stress bucket’ to help you identify and deal with stress which can be viewed here https://mentalhealth-uk.org/blog/the-stress-bucket/
Mental Health at work
A considerable task for businesses in 2020 is keeping teams motivated and productive in the face of uncertainty. As a result of the outbreak, around 63% of employers say anxiety is the biggest challenge facing their organisation right now, followed by the inability for their teams to work remotely.
Simon Benford-Blows, Head of RPO at Pertemps, explains how businesses can support employee’s mental health right now. With the possibility of some team members working remotely and others off ill, quarantined or self-isolating, it is more important than ever for businesses to retain talent, reduce presenteeism and maintain morale. As a business, Pertemps works heavily to support both our employees as well as workers on and offsite with clients. Below are just a few of the things Pertemps do to support its own employees as well as workers provided to clients.
Encouraging physical well-being remotely
This is somewhat harder to achieve remotely, however advising workers in making their home workplace a healthy place to be goes a long way to achieving this as well as encouraging staff to take regular breaks, be it making a cup of tea, wandering around the garden, or stretching their legs up their road (while following social distancing guidelines).
Supporting psychological well-being
Build a remote workplace that is fair and safe. Providing security, allowing autonomy, and demonstrate the value and impact of their work. Encourage regular breaks throughout the day to help employees mentally reset their energy and attention.
Build a team atmosphere with open communication
Research has found many benefits of positive relationships in the workplace. Encourage teamwork and social interactions, allowing employees to build a strong support network in a virtual workplace.
Supporting you with managing absence and return to work
In mental health-related absence, the longer a person is away, the less likely they are to return. Early, regular and appropriate contact can make returning easier. Having access to external organisations for additional support is key for organisations.
In summary, Simon Benford-Blows says, value mental health and wellbeing as core assets of your organisation and take the following steps to help and support mental health right now.
- Commit to developing an approach to mental health at work that protects and improves mental health for everyone, whilst supporting those people who experience distress. Designate board champions and ensure senior leaders and middle managers are responsible for implementing mental health programmes.
- Commit to reviewing the way you do business to ensure your everyday working culture is as mentally healthy as possible. Make evidence based mental health promotion tools like mindfulness and exercise available to all staff.
- Conduct regular staff surveys and other research to build data about staff mental health, using findings to plan and deliver action and inform workplace policies. Recognise and celebrate the impact of existing employee benefits and corporate social responsibility activities on the mental health and wellbeing of staff.
If you want to learn how Pertemps can support your recruitment whilst maintaining an effective Mental Health support framework, please get in touch via our contact us page on the website.