This week is Mental Health Awareness Week (2020). There’s lots going on in the world of HR at present: furloughing workers, holidays rolling over, planning ahead for a return to work. Add to that supporting the workforce to navigate a new styles of working that embrace technology and home working. More than anything though, the most important task for HR and managers right now is taking care of the well being of employees, to ensure they remain happy, healthy and high performing in these stressful times. The toll of this pandemic on mental health is well recognised; be it due to financial anxiety, stress from working at home with children, feelings of isolation, the blurring of work/home boundaries, health worries for yourself or your family, or mental exhaustion, there is a very common theme of mental strain for us all at present.
So, what can employer’s do?
- Kindness matters
The theme of this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week (2020)(MHAW) is kindness. Kindness can be as simple as reaching out to offer a listening ear to someone or thanking a colleague for something they have done. The pandemic, and MHAW offer an opportunity for us to make a conscious effort to be kind and build kindness into our everyday working habits.
Managers should maintain regular contact with employees whilst working remotely and have meaningful two-way conversations. Start your calls by really asking how your team is and making this the priority ahead of checking in on progress or deadlines. Ensuring staff have clarity about your understanding and support as well as what they should be working on will help to strike a beneficial balance.
- Recognise the need for flexibility
Where possible, provide employees with the freedom to work to a schedule that suits their new circumstances; in these strange times, productivity may strike at strange times in the day and work outputs can benefit from being set free from the limits of 9-5. Working parents are facing their own particular set of issues as they juggle working, parenting, and home-schooling, which can be a lot to handle without the flexibility to plan and adjust schedules. Conversely, social isolation for those who live alone is often a drain on motivation, and a barrier to being ready for work on demand.
- Mental Health First Aid
If you’ve not already, now is the time to embrace the role of the Mental Health First Aider (MHFA). To provide an extra layer of support, organisations can look to arrange for individuals to become qualified and accredited in this area. Although it is not a legal requirement, there are increased calls and expectations for employers to make mental health first aid mandatory in their organisations, and with the sudden demand for these services during the covid-19 pandemic their value is more apparent than ever.
At the same time, organisations must not forget the pressure that being a MHFA places on individuals during times of high demand. MHFA’s play an important role in an overall health and wellbeing strategy of an organisation, but employers need to ensure they are properly supported too.
For more support and guidance in championing employee wellbeing in your organisation, contact our team:
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