The rise in remote work self-isolation and health-related anxiety has created a general sense of unease for many people and exacerbated existing mental health issues for many more. Following a surge in anxiety caused by the COVID-19 outbreak, managing and supporting mental health at work has never been more crucial.
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. One in three Britons feels unprepared, with 62% of adults saying they feel anxious or worried. This number is much higher in the younger age group, with 80% of under 25s saying existing mental health issues have gotten worse since the outbreak began.
So how can businesses support employee mental health right now?
With 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.
Break the culture of silence
There is still a stigma around mental illness that makes employees more likely to suffer in silence than share information with their managers or bosses. Around 82% of employees with a diagnosed mental health condition do not confide in management, and 40% of employees have given a false reason when taking time off for mental health.
Now is an ideal time for leaders within businesses to talk more openly about mental health and create a culture that encourages conversations around these issues. Taking a mental health day or asking for support should never impact an employee’s reputation or how they are perceived.
Keep socialising with your teams
Remote working has its perks, but a lot of people are feeling isolated right now. Office banter is missed most about work since lockdown, with recent study by Vodafone shows 41% say they miss the daily jokes.
Environmental psychologist and wellbeing trainer Lee Chambers says dealing with a lack of social connections during the outbreak is a massive challenge for a lot of people. “In these turbulent times, social connection is vital to our wellbeing. Without the ability to go out and socialise in the way we usually would, we have to be more creative and have more intention in our connection with others during this lockdown scenario. In some ways, the enforcement of rules around movement have caused us to slow down. This actually gives us the chance to connect on a deeper level.”
Lead by example
With many employees working remotely, managers need to be more conscious of the challenges different households are facing. Encouraging flexibility, self-care and regular check-ins is key to reducing presenteeism and stress, and ensuring employees facing any issues can be identified and supported. Encourage transparent conversations and put action plans in place for team members who need help.
Introduce team activity and training sessions
With employees using tools like Zoom to connect with the office remotely, now is a great time for businesses to encourage morning catch-ups, remote Friday drinks, yoga sessions or even company training sessions. Encourage team members to take a class they’ve always wanted to try, or to attend industry-related Webinars. This is a great way to support employees looking to upskill themselves and stay busy.
More work needs to be done to ensure businesses take care of their most valuable assets – their employees. Encourage employees to self-advocate and seek early intervention before their mental health requires more stringent measures, like having to take stress leave or resign.
John Williams, head of marketing at Instant Offices