Maria Mander is Health & Wellbeing Advisor providing specialist advice for participants of Skills for Growth - SME Support across Greater Manchester, to assist them in developing a thriving workforce with healthy, productive, engaged and happy employees.
Keeping Employees Mentally Healthy During Lockdown
The frequent lockdowns have caused a lot of disruption to normal working life for many people. Day to day life for many has changed drastically as we are told to ‘work from home’ if we can, a lot of us are left feeling isolated. For a lot of people, the switch to working from home during a pandemic has led to increased levels of stress, anxiety and depression as they attempt to produce the same quality and quantity of work they normally would, despite having to adjust to a new way of working as well as strict lockdown rules. In fact, 80% of Brits feel working from home has had a negative impact on their mental health
In 2019, the CIPD found that two of the most common reasons for long term absences were mental illness and stress. Employee absences will have an effect on productivity which is why it is important to support your employees, especially in times like these.
With this in mind, here are some tips to help you support your colleagues during these difficult times.
Reassure Your Employees
Going into a lockdown will always be a worrying time for people, as they fear for the safety of their job or the health of their loved ones. They may also fear that they may not be able to perform their job to the same level they could pre-lockdown. This is why it may be useful to send an email out to your employees that reassures them by acknowledging that these are difficult times and that it’s not easy adjusting to working from home, therefore you do not expect the same levels of productivity from them and understand the extra mental toll another lockdown will take on them. This will help to put their minds at ease and lift some weight off their shoulders, which will be greatly appreciated and actually, potentially make them more motivated.
Take Individual Situations into Account
Working from home will blur the line between work and personal life, as the two begin to intertwine. This means it is important to understand individual employees’ situations and the commitments they have in their personal life that might affect their work life whilst working from home.
People with Care Responsibilities
The most obvious one may be parents who have children to look after due to school closures, especially single parents, who will need to try to balance looking after their children whilst still working. Under a regular work schedule, this can be extremely stressful, however if you allow them to work more flexible hours or reduce their workload, that stress can be reduced and it will make their life much easier. That is just one example but there are many more situations that should be accounted for, such as people caring for vulnerable elderly people or those with a disability.
People Who Live Alone
Many people who live alone experience feelings of depression as we see so often with older people. The effects of this are heightened when you are not only living alone, but are now working alone as well. For people who live alone, going to work may be the only time they get to see and interact with other people. Working from home means they will end up a lot more isolated with only a few virtual meetings to interact with their colleagues, which is unlikely to satisfy their social needs. 25% of those working from home say they find it difficult to cope with the mental challenges of loneliness and isolation from their colleagues. This means it is worthwhile checking up on those who live alone more frequently than those who don’t to make sure they still feel happy and motivated to work. You could introduce a “buddy system” or organise virtual meetings just to have a general chat with people to help reduce feelings of loneliness.
Lockdowns bring the possibility of some employees being furloughed for a period of time. This means these employees will be locked in their homes with no routine which can be difficult to adjust to and cope with. Checking in regularly with these employees to check on their wellbeing can help them cope with being furloughed, as long as this doesn’t involve any work from them that could directly financially benefit the business. They can also attend virtual work social events or participate in some training to keep them occupied, again, as long as this doesn’t directly financially benefit the business.
Attend to Their Personal Preferences
Working from home means new challenges to overcome. One of the bigger challenges is maintaining effective communication when you are no longer in the office where you are easily able to talk to colleagues. This means the introduction of tools like Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Skype and so on into the company. People will have different preferences as to what their preferred method of communication is, some prefer virtual meetings, some prefer instant messaging, and some prefer plain old emails.
Taking into account each employees preferred communication method will allow them to perform at their best and ensure they feel as comfortable as possible.
The main thing to remember is, we are living in unprecedented times. There is no right or wrong way to deal with this but as long as employers are ensuring the needs of their employees are paramount we can support each other and pull through the pandemic. There are a number of ways employers can begin to support their employees and while the above tips are a great start – why not get in touch with one of our Health & Wellbeing specialists here at Skills for Growth – SME Support and see how we can help you adapt.
We can look at the culture of your organisation and help plan for what the future may look like and how you can future proof the health and wellbeing of your staff.
As a fully funded programme, consultations are free. We are ready and waiting to help you on your wellbeing journey.
The Growth Company is an award-winning, not-for-profit social enterprise with a mission to enable growth, create jobs and improve lives. We provide individuals and businesses with a wide range of services that improve employment, skills, investment and enterprise for the benefit of all, and have been working in the Greater Manchester city region for more than 30 years.
This project receives funding from the European Social Fund as part of the 2014-2020 European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme in England.
The Department for Work and Pensions is the Managing Authority for the England European Social Fund programme.
Established by the European Union, the European Social Fund helps local areas stimulate their economic development by investing in projects which will support skills development, employment and job creation, social inclusion and local community regenerations. For more information visit https://www.gov.uk/european-growth-funding.