Employers urged to think about the mental health of their staff during the coronavirus pandemic

Apr 2, 2020 | Business

HR expert Alison Schreiber is urging employers to consider the mental health and wellbeing of their staff during the coronavirus pandemic.

In her latest blog, Durham-based Alison, who is the Peterlee and Seaham business park groups’ resident HR partner, offers some useful advice which could help workers in the coming weeks.

By now you will hopefully be well informed on the extreme measures put in place by the government to protect the public and slow the spread of COVID-19. The latest official guidance goes beyond frequent hand washing and coughing into a tissue, with most people now being advised to stay at home.

Social distancing is a critical containment measure in the government’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, and is in place to protect public health. Whilst this is of utmost importance for physical health, it presents new challenges for managing and maintaining good mental health.

Coronavirus affects mental health too

In addition to adapting to the new rules laid out by the government surrounding physical distancing, employers may also be managing staff who are feeling anxious or worried about coronavirus. Many people are concerned that it could affect their health, home, family or job.

This level of uncertainty and worry can start to have a detrimental effect on a person’s mental health and well-being. As an employer, you are responsible for the mental and physical health of employees, checking in on them during this crisis is vital.

Don’t forget your own well-being too, your health is essential and the business needs you.

Keep your business working well

Read on for some best practice advice to manage good mental health and well-being in your business during the coronavirus crisis.

1. Keep communication flowing

With many employees now working from home or reduced hours, you may not be seeing your team as often as usual. It can be hard to spot the symptoms of poor mental health as they are not always obvious. This can be even harder with infrequent contact.

It is essential to keep communication flowing, whether that’s through daily video conferences or checking in with employees when you see them, remembering to keep the correct 2m distance. Keep them informed on important business updates and let them know you are there if they need support.

2. Show understanding

People have been affected by the coronavirus pandemic in many different ways. For example, working parents are now also part-time substitute teachers due to school closures. And family members are either stuck in close quarters or separated due to isolation, all whilst navigating a mixed bag of emotions.

It’s fair to say that nothing is normal at the moment, which may start to impact your employees’ abilities at work. Focus, patience and resilience are just some of the soft skills that can be affected, which in turn can throw other competencies off course.

If employees are struggling, you may want to consider allowing additional rest breaks, deadline extensions or temporarily decreasing their workload to help get them back on track.

3. Support and self-care

Whether by offering an employee assistance programme (EAP), which provides access to virtual counselling support, or signposting useful resources like Mind or Mental Health at Work, there are a number of ways in which you can support staff and managers during this crisis.

Many well-known personalities and brands are offering discounted or free web sessions for fitness, well-being, children’s education and more. Why not set up a group or create a document and encourage employees to share these findings with each other as and when they come across them? Now, more than ever, is the time for togetherness and self-care.

A helping hand from your HR Dept

If you need further or specific advice on managing mental health and well-being in your business, please call us. We will take the time to listen to the unique needs of your business and provide expertise on how best you can support employees during this challenging time.

Contact your local HR Dept office for more information on our services. And keep up to date with the latest news for employers regarding coronavirus by reading our coronavirus news and FAQ pages.