Looking after mental health: Both in, and out, of the workplace

Amidst the prolonged period of uncertainty brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic, companies and employees have been through some unprecedented changes. While these adjustments have, undoubtedly, hit the bottom line of many businesses, they are also likely to have had a profound impact upon the mental health of team members too.

Though the government lockdown is now beginning to ease, many staff are still working from home or remain on furlough. Others, meanwhile, are starting to make their way back into the workplace. As teams begin to reassemble, it’s important not to assume that it will be ‘business as usual’ following a period throughout which, for most, this couldn’t have been further from the truth.

Take the time to ‘check in’

Whether working from home, returning to the office or one of the many who are still furloughed, each person has been impacted in a different way.

Some have been juggling work and home-schooling. Those who live alone may have spent months entirely isolated from friends and family. While others may have suffered ill health or family bereavement during their period away from the office.

There is no doubt that businesses will be keen to hit the ground running and make up for lost time. However, making an effort to ‘check in’ with employees regularly is essential. A happy team usually makes for an equally productive one, so addressing any concerns as and when they arise is a good place to start.

Consider putting in place additional support

Hopefully, as a business, there are already supportive policies and procedures in place around mental health. However, if not, it’s never too late to begin implementing positive practices.

Here are a few suggestions:

  • Insist on regular breaks: not only offer an opportunity to refresh, but also a chance to socialise with others, whether in person or electronically, which strengthens team bonds leading to increased levels of contentment.
  • Incorporate a relaxation space: if working from home has taught us all one thing, it’s that ‘switching off’ is far more difficult when surrounded by work-related paraphernalia. Providing a dedicated space where people can relax, is a wise way to safeguard mental health amongst the workforce.

For those still working from home, this is a little less easy to achieve. However, encouraging employees to stick to their working hours, and tuck laptops neatly away when not in use, is one easy way to draw the line between work and down time.

  • Emotional and financial guidance: it doesn’t matter how old we get; we all need a little support from time to time. Offering this as part of a workplace benefits package can mean that advice is more easily accessible to those who need it.
  • Flexibility: for the first time ever, thousands of employees have worked from home rather than commuting into the office. For many businesses, this has proved successful.

Keeping an element of this flexibility in place demonstrates trust and gives employees the autonomy to make choices about their own working week. The absence of the daily commute may give some the option to prioritise morning fitness sessions, and others the chance to take their children to school.

Likewise, adopting a flexitime arrangement is also a perk which employees are likely to welcome.

Looking to the future

While some will leave this period largely unscathed, for others it will have brought significant turmoil. So, though it’s important that we all begin to look to the future, first we must ensure that our teams, perhaps the most important pieces of the puzzle, remain ‘stronger together’.



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