Caring in a crisis


The coronavirus pandemic is taking a toll on peoples mental as well as physical health, so what can employers do to support their staffs wellbeing? The mental health impacts of COVID-19 including the eects of lockdown and restrictions such as social distancing and self-isolation are still revealing themselves. Some of your employees may be fearful of contracting the virus; others will be anxious about family and friends. Many will have suered bereavements during this time, often without the chance to say goodbye or attend funerals. Then there are the fears about job security, returning to the workplace including using public transport for commuting and financial concerns. Some employees are working longer or more irregular hours, and many are combining work with childcare and other family responsibilities, leading to a poor work-life balance. In addition, there are the potential mental health implications of furlough leave or being on the job-support scheme. So, what should employers be doing? Support measures Many employees do not feel comfortable speaking up about poor mental health; this is unlikely to change after the pandemic. Employers must develop a range of measures to support sta experiencing poor mental health as a result of COVID-19 and its eects on society and the economy Employers must develop a range of measures to support sta experiencing poor mental health as a result of COVID-19 and its eects on society and the economy. These will need to range from helping employees regain an eective work-life balance and addressing fears about returning to work, to support for severe mental health conditions. Employers particularly those who have sta working in frontline response roles should already be acting to put support in place. It is important that people experiencing poor mental health are not labelled by focusing on a diagnosis; instead, discussions and support should focus on the impact it has on them at work. Prevention Employers have several areas on which to focus. First, supporting the mental health of employees who continue to work in essential and key-worker roles. Many will be under significantly increased pressure that may make them more vulnerable to stress or other mental health conditions. Second, the need to support those who continue to work from home, as well as those who may return to the workplace on a phased or adjusted basis. Finally, there is the impact of potential redundancies on employees, including those who may be at risk of redundancy, those who survive a redundancy situation, and those such as HR workers who have to manage the process. While the resilience of all employees has been challenged by the coronavirus pandemic, the mental health and wellbeing implications will vary from employee to employee. Credit: John Harvey, Environmental Health Ocer Image: iStock / solarseven For a range of guidance on supporting health and wellbeing in the workplace, go to the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development website. Employers may wish to n Brief managers on the potential mental health implications of COVID-19, and their specific roles and responsibilities in relation to supporting sta n Communicate regularly on wellbeing and mental health support wherever possible n Support activities that encourage physical, mental, financial and social wellbeing n Provide mental health awareness-raising activities work towards a culture where it is acceptable to talk about, and seek support for, poor mental health n Consider re-inductions for employees who started work for the organisation before or even during lockdown if sta are needed in the workplace. For further information, please contact your local Trading Standards Service