Mental health in the workplace post-pandemic: How employers can help

Matthew Wilcox our consultant managing the role

This week marks Mental Health Awareness Week. We are all too used to being on auto-pilot, however this is a week for us to really focus on our mental health, and for organisations and employees to come together to have meaningful discussions and/or bring awareness to mental health in the workplace.

The events of the past year have had a significant impact on people’s mental health. According to The Health Foundation - a charity committed to bringing about better health and health care for people in the UK - 69% of people are “very worried” about the impact that the pandemic is having on their life.

It is essential to remember that everyone has been affected differently by COVID-19. Some people have been on extended leave from work, others have lost their jobs, and many people have faced serious health concerns. For those still in work, targets may have become more pressured, there could be a threat of job losses and/or excessive amounts of work with limited resources. 

It is to this backdrop, a recent survey by MIND (A mental health charity that provide advice and support to empower anyone experiencing a mental health problem) found that 42% of people considered resigning when asked how workplace stress had affected them. Moreover, research from the department of health suggests that mental illness costs the economy in England over £105billion each year through costs of services, lost productivity at work and reduced quality of life.

So, what can employers do to help people in the workplace and mitigate damage to the economy?"


Talk about mental health in the workplace 

Fear of discrimination and feeling ashamed are the top reasons people give for not telling their colleagues about their mental health problems. It is essential as an employer that you have a safe space to communicate people’s feelings and anxieties about work. 

Encourage managers, supervisors and colleagues to check in with each other. Try and see the world and situation from other people’s perspective. A job well done and a positive working environment is key to mental wellness, but it might not always be there. During these conversations, we need to be open and honest. Try by acknowledging the uncertainty and the stress it causes.

There is no shame in not having all of the answers yourself. These regular conversations will help build meaningful transparency into your company culture and your employees will thank you for it. Here is a great report from The Mental Health foundation on how to support mental health at work.

How to support someone who is experiencing a mental health problem

Supporting your employee’s mental health in the workplace does not need to be expensive. The essential starting point is to allow colleagues to feel empowered and safe to communicate their feelings. If you’re not sure where to start, Mind have put together a series of free resources to help improve mental wellbeing in workplaces.

Your business may already provide access to support services through your workplace - if you do, make sure these are advertised well and find out whether there are specific resources relating to the pandemic. Make sure people know where to go and who they can talk to internally. If you have mental health champions, allies or mental health first aiders, make sure they have the latest information.

However, it is important not to over rely on these people as they may not have the same level of training as others in safeguarding roles. Whilst mental health first aid courses have become increasingly popular within organisations, it is essential to remember that a two-day course is not a replacement for a trained therapist, and a considered action plan.

Create a culture that supports employees to be open about their mental health

People are often scared to tell their manager they are struggling with their mental health, and this can lead to the problem spiralling. Addressing wellbeing at work increases productivity by as much as 12%.

Working remotely is the top reason why employee experience and company culture is disrupted. In March 2020, businesses were forced to change the way they usually work, communicate and manage their workforce.

Arguably remote working does not mean the fundamentals of a strong company culture should change. However it is important to create traditions where people feel included, give employees a sense of ownership over their role, and allow people to have a voice and an influence.

You can read our previously published article here authored by David Beeney, founder of Breaking the Silence explaining how to approach a conversation about mental health in the workplace, and how to create a culture of trust. 

11/05/21
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