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Future of Work Q4 2020

How to support mental health at work during COVID-19

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Emma Mamo

Head of Workplace Wellbeing, Mind

Making mental health at work a priority has never been more important than during the current pandemic.  

Coronavirus has had a massive impact on the UK workforce, whether you’re a key worker, on furlough, facing redundancy, working from a different location, juggling work and parenting, or managing a team. It is vital employers take action to tackle poor mental health at work. 

The business case of employee wellbeing  

It’s never been more important that employers invest in employee mental health. Deloitte UK has found that employers see a £5 return for every £1 invested in wellbeing interventions1. These savings are made because employers who prioritise staff wellbeing tend to report greater productivity, lower staff sickness and fewer staff leaving. 

How employers can help 

Clear, regular internal communications help make sure staff feel up to date and reassured that in a fast-changing, difficult environment, their employer is doing all they can to support them.  

Frequent anonymous surveys help employers gauge how well supported employees feel and identify any gaps in the wellbeing support offered.  

Any workplace wellbeing programmes should be well-promoted and easy to access, especially given the rise in remote working and the uncertainty caused by the pandemic. 

Supporting remote working 

While some staff now working from home may be relieved to have ditched their commute, others might be struggling with issues like loneliness, isolation, poor work/life balance and longer working hours.  

Managing colleagues remotely can mean it’s harder to identify when a co-worker might be struggling, and any instances of ‘presenteeism’ – staff working when they should be taking time off sick to help them recover.  

Discouraging employees routinely working long unsociable hours means they can come back to work refreshed and more productive.

Tips for staff 

It can be difficult for employees to switch off from work if their ‘office’ also happens to be their kitchen, living room or bedroom. Try to encourage staff to do something that creates a clear divide between work and leisure time.  

What works will vary, but anything from making dinner, contacting a loved one, doing an online workout, or taking a bath could help staff – as long as it provides an opportunity to physically step away from their ‘desk’. Discouraging employees routinely working long unsociable hours means they can come back to work refreshed and more productive. 

With minimal daylight hours, employers should offer more flexible working hours, potentially encouraging staff to take longer lunchbreaks and make up the hours elsewhere. Encouraging employees to get outdoor exercise during the day can make a huge difference – given physical activity, nature and natural light all boost wellbeing.  

Mind, the mental health charity offers advice and support to empower anyone experiencing a mental health problem. Mind also offers free resources for employers to help improve mental wellbeing. For more information, visit mind.org.uk/work  

1 Deloitte UK (2020) Mental health and employers: refreshing the case for investment

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