Statistics produced by the Health & Safety Executive show that mental health was already a huge issue in the workplace long before the current situation arose with Covid-19 but how will it affect your organisation and your employees?
According to an article in the Guardian online a recent survey carried out by YouGov found that 50% of healthcare workers reported that their mental health has deteriorated since the virus began. That’s not surprising really, considering that they are definitely working under a lot more pressure and they are concerned about their safety & the safety of their loved ones during these strange times.
Now while there is so much media attention on the key workers and their well-being, we must not forget about the mental health of the rest of the workforce because this emergency affects us all.
I have heard so called experts predicting a serious rise in the number of PTSD cases because of the disease, but as someone who has lived with mental illness as well as working with others with issues my concern is more about a possible rise in Adjustment Disorders.
Big changes in our lives can be challenging enough to deal with even when we have made a conscious decision to make those changes, but when those changes are forced upon us in a short space of time the effects can be magnified hugely.
So many people are now living and working in a way that is totally alien to them, even if they are used to working from home it is likely that there will be extra pressures for them.
Let us think about them for a moment:
- How is the employee who lives alone and now working at home coping with the feeling of isolation?
- How is the person who is used to working from home but lives with family members coping with juggling work and family now that everyone is there 24/7?
- How is the employee who is used to working on site coping with working remotely from home and dealing with the feeling of isolation or family pressures?
- How is the employee who is on furlough leave coping with having no work to do and the financial pressures of reduced pay?
- How are they all coping with having large parts of their work and family life taken out of their control?
- How are they all coping with the perception of danger with the virus?
These are just a few of the possible situations, with the huge variety of careers and living arrangements the number of potential circumstances is vast.
So with no way of knowing of when this state of affairs will end, how can employers reduce the risk and help their employees to maintain their well-being?
There are a couple of great ways to show them that you care about them and it is not difficult to do:
Stay in touch with them, and ask them how they would prefer to do that. Some may prefer a good old fashioned telephone call because it feels familiar, others may want to embrace to new way with video calls either in a group or individually.
Also ask how often would be good for them because too many calls can feel oppressive while too few can lead to someone feeling isolated and unwanted. Give them good quality updates and let them know they are valued.
While someone is on furlough leave there is very little they can do, but training is definitely on the permitted list. It will be a huge boost to every employee too, not just those on furlough.
Not all needs to be all about their role within the organisation either, think about the person’s ability to create structure for themselves. They may not carry out a role where they are required to build structure, but with the changes they are having to deal with they will need to learn.
Managers create structure for their teams in the workplace every day, can they pass on some of that experience. Remember to include prioritising of work related tasks, and blocking out time for family and rest.
There are some fantastic training packages for mental health awareness and mental health first aid which can be delivered remotely by video conference, do some research and ask your people if they would like to get involved.
Video conferencing is a fantastic tool for delivering training, it now means that geography is no longer a barrier to training your teams no matter how far and wide they are spread. It also means that once they are trained in the skills needed they can more easily provide support for each other.
When you consider that according to the Centre for Mental Health, the cost to employers due to mental ill health in the UK almost £35 billion per year before the Coronavirus emerged, doesn’t it make sense to invest in your employees’ well-being now before it develops into a problem for you all?
Specialist Mental Health First Aid Training, Support, & Consultancy