Interventions your business can make to better support employee mental health
In the UK, many of those who identify as disabled live with invisible illnesses such as diabetes, chronic pain, and mental well-being.
Specifically, mental health wellbeing represents one of the largest reasons to identify as disabled in the UK.
With levels of anxiety increasing during the pandemic, this year’s World Mental Health Day on 10 October may have been more important than ever. Recent figures from Mind Cymru revealed that nearly two in three adults believe their mental health and wellbeing has got worse since the first national lockdown in March 2020.
Hidden conditions such as mental well-being are generally misunderstood in the workplace, remote working has made it more difficult to identify mental well-being amongst colleagues, ensuring they are sufficiently supported.
For many, the colleagues we once saw on an everyday basis have been replaced by 2D versions of themselves that we only interact with through a computer screen.
It’s incredibly easy to forget that, while we all might be struggling, those with existing mental health conditions are finding those issues exacerbated and more difficult to deal with.
This lack of everyday, face-to-face contact is also contributing to managers being unaware of whether – and how – their staff are struggling.
Difficulties in reading body language via a computer screen, increasing work pressures and less ‘informal’ time spent speaking to staff means it is becoming increasingly difficult for employers to identify and appropriately support those employees who are not coping.
Ensure that provisions and practices are in place
So, it is crucial managers recognise the importance of mental health in the workplace and understand how to best support an employee struggling with their mental health.
I would say the most positive step an employer could make is to ensure that provisions and practices are in place to improve the mental health and wellbeing of all employees.
Employers have a duty of care for their staff; they are responsible for understanding what causes stress and anxiety within their teams.
Pro-actively limiting these triggers or making reasonable adjustments in the workplace can ensure staff can do their jobs effectively
When it comes to promoting good well-being in work and supporting colleagues with mental health conditions and other hidden impairments in the workplace, certain reasonable adjustments can make the world of difference.
For instance, developing a supportive culture, providing staff with opportunities to discuss their well-being in an environment within which they feel comfortable doing so and having policies or practices in place that reflect this can help ensure that mental health conditions and other hidden impairments are not perceived as a failure.
Additional barrier to success
It’s instead an additional barrier to success that the employer and employee need to work together to overcome.
To remove those barriers for me, open conversation was key as well as the feeling of being heard.
The way employers communicate with staff is a key factor in shaping how employees respond when they’re experiencing stress and poor mental health.
Managers should cultivate open and supportive relationships with their employees by establishing regular, informal ‘check-ins’, when working remotely.
Celebrating small achievements is especially important in the current climate.
When working in the office, we need to ensure we’re engaging in casual celebrations or gestures, like making a colleague a cup of tea after a difficult meeting.
With many of us now sitting behind a screen, we’re slipping into a culture of isolation, working alone and not having that face-to-face time to voice appreciation for others.
It’s important that we replicate face-to-face gestures of encouragement online, such as using the awards feature on Teams to let a colleague know they’ve done a good job, or dropping them a line to ensure they know they’re appreciated.
The pandemic has also seen the boundaries between professional and personal life blur. In general, many workers have experienced higher workloads due to furloughed staff members as well as less social opportunities outside of work due to COVID-19 restrictions.
This has led to many of us working longer hours and socialising less outside of work, leaving us feeling stressed.
Those working from home have been operating out of their personal space which can make it difficult to establish a clear line between work and home life.
Without the ritual of leaving a place of work or having the physical distance between home and the office, it’s increasingly hard to switch off.
Staff well-being and work-life balance is a priority
For those who have been working in face-to-face environments, stresses around safety and wellbeing have also become heightened during the pandemic, with front line key worker staff across many sectors feeling the strain.
It is, in my opinion, important for employers to demonstrate that staff well-being and work-life balance is a priority.
Whether that be clarifying it is understood people may not be online when emails are sent in the evening or simply promoting this message is by encouraging your team to take short breaks throughout the day.
It can be a five minute quiz or chat with a coffee, taking five minutes away from your desk can help raise morale and de-stress.
Adjusting to the impacts of Covid-19 personally and professionally has brought immense pressure and the need to “push through”.
Therefore I believe this is the perfect time for employers and managers to be discussing well-being with their employees.
Championing staff to voice their concerns and finding constructive solutions has never been more necessary.
It’s important to be aware of the support available to ensure you’re not on your own.
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