Senior Policy Adviser, Acas
‘Levelling up’ is a new phrase being spoken about across the Government and beyond. It refers to a rebalancing of the economy to create more equality between prosperous areas and those seen as ‘left behind’.
If the Government was looking for a good template for the mental health policy agenda then, arguably, they could take a closer look at the levelling up that is happening in many workplaces between mental and physical health.
We still have a long way to go, but there are signs that the pandemic has created a new understanding of psychological wellbeing as well as how important this is to all sorts of metrics, including engagement, job satisfaction and productivity.
Good jobs equal good health
It’s over simplistic but the basis of good mental health is often quality jobs. Recent work from Carnegie UK and the Royal Society of Arts has asked the question ‘can good work solve the productivity puzzle?’ – the answer is, broadly, yes.
The ‘long tail’ of poor productivity, identified by Bank of England Chief Economist Andy Haldane, is often put down to poor management practices – what is more important than the management practice of looking after people’s wellbeing?
As we start to see the end of lockdown on the horizon, we must ensure the conversation about jobs is not just about the quantity but the quality.
We still have a long way to go, but there are signs that the pandemic has created a new understanding of psychological wellbeing.
Out of sight out of mind
Acas has seen a growing interest in its advice on managing mental health during the pandemic from employees, managers and business owners. For those working remotely it can be hard to spot the signs of distress or mental health issues in oneself as well as in others. So, it’s important to encourage disclosure and to offer the right levels of empathy and understanding.
Everyone’s resilience has taken a knock, especially in the recent dark weeks. But I sense that a growing literacy is emerging and, for the first time, many of us are beginning to consciously think about personal coping strategies.
We have been going through a period of national reflection (though many key workers have had precious little time to stop and think while safeguarding our lives!). If there is one lesson to emerge from this hiatus it is this: we need to look after the most vulnerable at work and in society. That includes you if you are not able to cope right now.