Pandemic and mental health support in the workplace

Just like physical health, our mental health can change on a day-to-day basis. The future seems to be more uncertain than ever and our well-being may suffer from it. For the last year, a lot of us feel more stressed and anxious than ever before. Research undertaken by CIPD shows that employees reported a range of negative mental health effects that occurred as early as two weeks into the first COVID-19 lockdown.

The mental health charity Mind reported increasing numbers of adults (60%) and young people (68%) who said that their psychological well-being has suffered during the pandemic. Symptoms ranged from irritability, anger, depression and post-traumatic stress symptoms as well as a loss of motivation, purpose, anxiety and feelings of severe isolation. Those who have been furloughed also experienced a decrease in their well-being, Mind charity reports.

According to a survey conducted by the mental health organisation TalkOut, over 85% of UK workers feel that their mental health has not been prioritised by their employer. Over 31% said the number of one-to-one discussions with their line managers had decreased since the pandemic hit. This clearly shows that even if a majority of workplaces had managed to secure social distancing and working from home protocols, mental health has been severely overlooked. This is likely to have a huge long-term impact for generations to come.

So, what can be done in a workplace to increase the wellbeing of its employees?

Talk to/with your team. You should be as available, approachable and sympathetic as possible. Simple questions such as how a colleague is feeling, how their work is going or if they need any further support can drastically improve the well-being of an employee.

It is important to notice possible signs of changes in behaviour. It can be hard to recognise behavioural signs when employees work from home or are furloughed. Therefore, it is important to arrange one-to-one talks or group meetings to simply talk and socialise. Maybe a colleague is expressing some unusual behaviours such as lateness to work, difficulties focusing or displaying a lack of interest in tasks which are usually enjoyed. It is important to acknowledge these issues early on so necessary support can be provided.

If you feel as if you or a colleague are lost at work or have experienced job loss, contact the Safe New Futures team at choices@safe.org.uk and join us for one of our free self-development courses to help you find your full potential.