How to support your employees’ mental health during the pandemic and beyond
In 2020, Covid-19 turned our lives upside down. From the lockdown restrictions and enforced social isolation, to uncertainties around jobs and financial insecurity, we have been faced with many challenges which will have impacted people’s mental health in a number of ways.
The stats speak for themselves. In a recent study, more than two thirds of adults in the UK reported feeling somewhat or very worried about the effect COVID-19 is having on their life. The Office for National Statistics has reported that the number of adults likely to be experiencing some form of depression has doubled since March. On top of that, 1 in 8 adults have developed moderate to severe depressive symptoms.
Stress, anxiety and depression are on the rise and experts have even said that the pandemic will have a major impact on people’s mental health for years to come. With over 70 million working days lost each year as a result of poor mental health already, now, more than ever, businesses need to take action to support their employees. So, here’s some tips on what you can do.
Take a proactive approach
Too often businesses start focusing on mental health and providing support as a reaction to something. But mental health problems don’t always have clear warning signs. You might not be able to identify when someone is suffering from depression, for example, because it can manifest in very different ways and people also tend to put on a brave face. That’s why a proactive approach is the best option for your people and your business. So, take action – create a strategy, have a support system in place and regularly check in with your employees whether that’s through surveys or 1-to-1 meetings.
Develop a culture that supports mental health
While you can’t control the external factors that might impact your employees’ mental health, you can control their working environment. Part of taking a proactive approach is ensuring that your business’ culture supports your employees’ mental health. Work can often create or perpetuate existing mental health challenges, so it’s crucial that your culture fosters a healthy work/life balance and has your employees’ wellbeing at its heart. That way, your employees are more likely to keep on top of their stress levels, get enough sleep and, in general, manage their mental health better.
Normalise mental health conversations
One of the biggest obstacles that prevents people reaching out for help when they’re struggling is the stigma attached to mental health. At work in particular, there’s still a sense that physical health is treated more seriously than mental health. In the National Employee Mental Wellbeing Survey, 35% of employees didn’t approach anyone for support on the most recent occasion they experienced poor mental health.
To combat the stigma, try to normalise conversations about mental health in your business. Educate your employees about mental health, share people’s stories (there are many available on the Mind website), encourage open conversations, signpost useful resources and reinforce the key point that mental health problems are normal. This again ties in with your culture because it’s all about creating an open environment in which your employees feel comfortable reaching out for help, knowing they will be treated with care and respect.
Give your employees access to a range of tools
There is no ‘one size fits all’ solution to mental health, everyone has their own way of managing it. While one thing might work for one person, it might not work for another. With that in mind, it’s therefore valuable to offer your employees a wide range of services and tools that they can use to manage their mental health day-to-day and support themselves through difficult times.
Here are some examples:
Employee Assistance Programme (EAP)
EAPs are intended to help employees deal with personal problems which might be having an impact on their mental health and overall wellbeing. From compassionate guidance to counselling, there are a range of services included, depending on the provider you choose, which can help employees effectively work through challenges a lot of which can be facilitated online or over the phone.
✔️ Available through the zone
Mental health support apps
Mental health support apps are particularly useful because they’re designed to deliver valuable content, advice and support to people on the go. One app that we would recommend is from provider Everymind, who we have officially partnered with. Packed full of useful content ranging from videos to step-by-step guides, the Everymind app helps employees manage their mental health as well as provide support to others.
✔️ Available through the zone
Online mindfulness course
Mindfulness is a great way of treating common mental health problems such as anxiety, stress and depression. By giving your employees access to a course or resource to help them learn the art of mindfulness, you’ll help them be more mindful and aware of their thoughts and feelings and therefore be in a better position to manage them.
✔️ Available through the zone
One important point to mention is that our mental health is also impacted by our physical, financial and social wellbeing which means it’s also beneficial to provide support relevant to these areas. Through our health and wellbeing solution the zone, we deliver a wide range of valuable tools and services that help employees manage their overall wellbeing and mental health. From a debt management service to discounted gym memberships, the zone is a hub of support for your employees to tap into whenever they need.
Find out more about our health and wellbeing solution here.
Want to learn how to normalise mental health conversations in your workplace? Watch our webinar with guest speaker Paul McGregor, mental health advocate, author and founder of Everymind.