Chiquitita tell me what’s wrong….

Claire Vane
April 29, 2020

Mental health is top of the list in terms of employment priorities.  We spoke about the pros and cons of working from home in a previous blog – Home sweet home.

With the challenges and benefits of home working, the pandemic has brought with it a great deal of uncertainty.  There is no greater trigger for increased mental stress than uncertainty and this, combined with fear of the impact of the illness, plus sudden change to the domestic scene, becomes a hot bed for increased mental, and indeed, physical stress.  If you combine this with the fact that, in some cases, children are at home and are, themselves, facing mental stress of shifting to home education, which is an even greater shift for our children than for us, the potential for mental overload is enormous.  Additionally, there is fear about financial security.  

The combination of fear of illness, sudden shift to working at home, overload of uncertainty and change plus the limited social outlet is a deadly combination for overloading our mental hard drives.  With the enormous increase in communication and social media, there is more information available and those who ideally could use some therapeutic intervention, cannot afford it at stressful times such as these.

Mental health conditions still carry some stigma in the workplace and of the 60% of employees suffering from mental health conditions, research indicates that only 11% of those feel able to ask for help.  With the enormous gaps in ability to provide response and to ask for help, the role of the employer becomes much more important in this field and the sooner an individual is helped, the better the result and response.  

So, what can employers do?  The first thing is that employers need to watch for signs of mental issues in the workplace, but now the workplace is often remote, this means that employers should take further steps to get to know their employees and we have developed a health model, below, to help to guide managers.

Harness Relationships

  • Be open and communicate clearly and honestly with employees
  • Hold regular team meetings, but also speak to staff individually regularly – even if it is just a catch up. Ask how they are doing, not just about work
  • Be more aware of individual needs – e.g. those living alone, those with young children or other caring responsibilities, younger people who might be struggling more with the lack of social interaction
  • Try and have video calls so that you can pick up on body language and non-verbal cues, but use the right communication tools for each individual
  • Look out for changes in behaviours or performance and engage with them
  • The key is to over-communicate

Encourage Good Habits

Encourage employees to look after their physical and mental health by:

  • Creating a routine, including taking regular breaks, and good sleeping habits
  • Regulating exposure to the news and social media
  • Eating well and regulating food
  • Getting exercise and fresh air on a daily basis
  • Engaging in peer interaction e.g. by initiating virtual coffee meetings and lunches
  • Reaching out to someone they trust if they are struggling

Accept and Acknowledge Pressures

  • Accept that you might not be able to answer all the questions from your teams
  • If you become overwhelmed, delegate – e.g. allocate a buddy to speak to those who might be more vulnerable
  • Bring humanity and kindness to the fore – empathise with others

Lead by Example

  • Act as a role model for positive health and wellbeing
  • Form good habits and share these with your teams
  • Share your own feelings – you are more likely to connect if you share vulnerabilities
  • Remember the importance of praise, thanks and recognition

Trust and Be Trusted

  • Trust employees to do what’s expected but be clear in your communication about expectations
  • Create an environment in which employees feel comfortable to ask for help
  • Establish a relationship such that employees can trust you not to judge
  • Look out for the tone of employees’ emails or calls, to pick up any signs of distress and discuss this with them

There are also many organisations, including charities, who can provide help and your handbooks could be used as vehicles for highlighting the appointment of, for example, mental health first aiders and what other sources of information there are.  

The first step is always awareness and it is interesting to note that the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have launched a new campaign with the NHS and Public Health England encouraging people to look after their mental health in lockdown.  The campaign, called ‘Every Mind Matters’, encourages everyone to sign up for a tailored ‘Covid-19 mind’ plan online and has free resources on specific issues such as low moods and poor sleep, and access to activities like breathing exercises and muscle relaxation.

If you would like help, please pick up the phone, we can start by revising your policies and help with implementation...

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Claire Vane

Claire is the Managing Director and Founder of Integrated Resources. She is passionate about releasing potential in individuals and organisations.

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