The COVID-19 pandemic has seen a high increase in stress and anxiety, not just across the UK, but across the world. Lockdowns have caused increased loneliness and anxiety, as well as fear and panic, whilst we all tried to make some sense of the ongoing situations.
Most workplaces moved to home working in March / April 2020 and here we are, October 2021, hybrid working and making gradual returns to our workplaces!
How people feel comfortable working is different for everyone. Some individuals thrive whilst remote working and work better without office distractions, others can feel isolated from the workplace and feel like there has been an invasion of their personal space with a lack of work/life balance. There is no right or wrong on how to feel, but it is important for an employer to understand that everyone feels differently. Likewise, the return to workplaces may cause anxiety amongst some of your teams and some individuals may need some extra support and reassurance.
So, how can you support your workforce’s mental health?
Here are some ideas:
First and foremost, one of the best things you can do is to ask just three small words to the members of your team…
‘How are you?’.
These words can sound like nothing, but to someone struggling to stay afloat, these words can mean everything. Make the time each week to book in individual time with your team members, grab a coffee and have a chat, or schedule a hangout or zoom meeting. Make sure you do this at a time suited to them and when you are not in a rush.
Start a Wellness Check-In
Start a confidential Wellness Check In each week or each month by email across the whole company. You can do this in a number of ways but this is how we do it.
We send a series of coloured hearts with example feelings and individuals can reply confidentially letting us know how they feel that week. The exercise is not compulsory, but most of the team do join in. If someone is struggling, we will ask them some basic questions and see what changes we can make to support that individual as well as sign post them to our EAP programme to get further support if needed.
Invest in an Employee Assistance Programme
Did you know that 12.7% of all sickness absence days in the UK can be attributed to mental health?
Investing in an EAP programme for your workforce can not only help with statistics but also help employees know that you take their Mental Health seriously and you care. It can take a long time for an NHS referral for help and support and when you need the support right now, waiting months to be seen is not easy. Investing in an EAP gives employees someone external, qualified and confidential to speak to right now without the long waiting times.
Train your team in Mental Health First Aid
We have a team of individuals who are fully trained in Mental Health first aid and have become trained Mental Health First Aiders. Whilst we are not ‘fixers’ for any mental health problems, we are able to spot the signs of a potential employee experiencing poor mental health and can offer a supportive, friendly and confidential ear to an individual, as well as help an individual by signposting them to a safe place for help. Do remember to always attend courses approved by MHFA England.
Arrange a Gift
Everyone loves receiving a gift! Receiving a little gift can really brighten up your day. It doesn’t have to be big and expensive, small gifts have the same impact. You could arrange a return to the office gift to welcome them back to the workplace. These small gestures can leave employees feeling thought about, valued, reassured and cared for and who wouldn’t want that?
Set up a Company-Wide Forum
We use something called workplace by Facebook in our company to share news company wide. Set up a dedicated forum page so that employees can stay connected to each other whilst they are away from each other. This can be used to share ideas for self-care ideas, such as free exercise platforms, podcasts they have enjoyed, books they have read, meditation apps they like and recipes they have recently tried etc.
We are all in the same storm but in different boats. Everybody has mental health but everybody processes and deals with things differently and no 2 people are the same. Be understanding to everyone’s individual circumstances and work with your teams to make sure they feel cared for and supported.
Hopefully this has given you some ideas on how to help support your team's mental health in the workplace, whether that’s at home, in the office or a mix of both.