Organisations have the opportunity to make positive cultural change and strengthen their future, whilst supporting employees with their mental health.
In the latest published results of the study, ‘Coronavirus: Mental Health in the Pandemic’, it has been found 64% of people feel that they are not coping with pandemic-related stress well. The temporary hope as lockdown eased has now been replaced with an understanding that the virus is still playing havoc with people’s lives. With further government restrictions introduced to try to prevent the infection rate from spiraling out of control, the uncertainties for individuals and businesses this winter remain high. With financial worries, health concerns and more, the pandemic is certainly contributing to a lack of resilience and poor mental health across the UK.
A ‘Mental Health Crisis’
The HSE figures for 2018/19 show that stress, depression or anxiety accounted for 44% of all work-related ill health cases, with 12.8 million working days lost. Now as a result of the pandemic, every business across the country may see a rise in mental health problems in their workforce, with figures even worse than those reported before COVID-19. Therefore, it is vital that employers can create healthy working environments and support employee mental health and wellbeing, not only to meet their legal obligations but to remain productive and to come through the other side of the pandemic in a much better place. It also presents an opportunity to contribute to breaking the negative stigma surrounding mental health, to ensure that as a nation we reach a point where it isn’t brave to open up about your mental health – rather, it’s ‘the norm’. As some organisations lead from the front, it may give others the confidence to follow and realise the positive benefits for all when tackling mental health in the workplace.
Adding to the crisis, it has been suggested in a report by the Centre for Mental Health that in the next two years 500,000 more people will experience mental ill-health conditions in the UK as a result of the pandemic. With a further period of economic downturn as a result of a second spike likely to see even more severe and longer lasting effects on mental health.
“Now truly is the time for organisations to offer practical mental health and wellbeing support to their employees” explains Lottie Galvin, Mental Health First Aider at iHASCO. “The pandemic has shone a light on how crucial it is to acknowledge and address the emotional and mental struggles people are going through, many of whom were struggling long before COVID turned up on our doorstep.”
A recent report from Deloitte showed that employers can gain a 6:1 return on investment when supporting staff with mental health and wellbeing through organisation-wide culture/awareness raising. This could include initiatives such as tailored web portals, awareness training or personal exercise sessions. With poor mental health having the ability to hit a company’s bottom line hard, it seems like an obvious choice to address company culture if fostering a more caring, supportive attitude to mental health creates a more productive workforce.
“One of the simplest and most cost-effective ways of offering mental health support is to provide your staff with Mental Health & Wellbeing eLearning” says Galvin, whose employer, iHASCO, has delivered over 115,000 online mental health-related training sessions. “It’s a starting point – our courses offer staff a way to learn and reflect privately on their feelings and behaviour, but they also empower people to find the courage to speak up. This starts to build a company culture where talking openly about our struggles becomes more commonplace and is met with kindness and understanding. Our courses also offer a variety of simple tools, tips and ideas that help learners to manage their own wellbeing and offer support to others on a daily basis. Inclusive and supportive organisations inspire a great deal of engagement, motivation, hard work and long term loyalty from a team of individuals who feel seen, heard and cared for.”
iHASCO’s Online mental health and wellbeing training courses include Mental Health Awareness, Building resilience, Managing Anxiety and Stress Awareness & Management, and offer employees easy access to quality information to support them with their wellbeing. Online awareness training can be used alongside other practices to champion employee mental health and wellbeing in the workplace, such as creating a mental health policy, offering counselling through Employee Assistance Programmes, appointing Mental Health First Aiders, regular one-to-ones with managers or simply by promoting a healthy lifestyle and making staff aware of mental health support lines offered by charitable organisations.
The Coronavirus lockdown acted as a catalyst for starting conversations on wellbeing as employees up and down the country had their lives drastically changed almost overnight. Whether on furlough or working from home, anxiety levels were and still are at an all time high. Employers quickly had to react to this new situation and support employees, and discussions about how best to support mental health and wellbeing were underway across the nation. In times of uncertainty those equipped to better manage their anxiety levels and be resilient have been far less likely to suffer the effects of mental ill-health. Employers who address the issue of mental health and wellbeing in the workplace will reap the rewards whilst making a positive, cultural change, whilst companies not taking action may be left behind.