In celebration of World Mental Health Day on Saturday 10th October, we recently spoke with Leanne Winter, HR Manager and Mental Health First Aid Instructor at ManpowerGroup UK, about how workplace mental health support has changed in 2020 and what companies can do to ensure long-lasting support for employees, whether they’re working onsite or remotely.
The Shift from In-Person to Remote Support
Since March, Covid-19 has upended many business and personal practices that had been routine for years. Driving and train commutes have been replaced by a walk to the kitchen table, in-person conferences have shifted to Skype invitations and the border between ‘work’ and ‘personal’ has become more blurred than ever.
In recent years we’ve seen an increasing number of businesses understand that employees require more than a computer and phone to conduct their work and thrive within an organisation. Mental health support has become essential and has taken on many forms, from on-site confidential support to perks such as daily fruit deliveries or yoga classes which boost moral and employee satisfaction. But when offices are closed, and employees are asked to work remotely, how do businesses maintain this support?
Where there were once face-to-face check ins or activities, companies have shifted their focus to online forms of engagement and care. Internally, dialogue channels have been created or emphasised to encourage regular communication between employees and managers. Teams are now competing against each other virtually, be it through bake-offs or physical challenges, to encourage solidarity and to add a bit of humour to people’s workdays.
We have also seen that company leaders have become more visible internally, as regular communication on the changing rules around quarantine and company plans has played a vital role in workers feeling heard and supported during what is a very challenging time for many.
With Change Comes Improvement
Over the past six months of disruption, we’ve seen tremendous growth in the appreciation for and understanding of mental health support and its place within a company’s business priorities.
As dialogue has grown around remote working fatigue, the challenges of balance work and personal demands, and the negative emotions people are feeling around lockdown and Covid-19, we’ve seen a rise in the number of credible online support resources available to companies and individuals.
The NHS Every Mind Matters site and Mind are both full of insights and practices which can be implemented immediately to not only address existing mental health issues, but also to proactively help individuals notice warning signs. The UK Government has also published and continues to update information on how to look after your mental health and wellbeing during the coronavirus outbreak. The popularity of mindfulness apps has also grown, as cultivating positivity and gratitude can greatly improve a person’s frame of mind and mental health.
The discussion has positively shifted from just looking at productivity and output, to ensuring employees have access to resources aimed at creating the right foundation to support themselves and their mental wellbeing.
The long-lasting impact
During this time of change and adjustment, it is critical that employees are equipped with the resources and support they need now to find balance and work effectively. However, companies would be remiss to only focus on the present.
Long-term mental health support plans should be established to ensure that in six or twelve months, whether employees are working from home or onsite, they have continued support.
Rather than massive overhauls of existing procedures, it is often little things that have a tremendous impact. Can work hours or lunch break times be adjusted with the seasons to ensure employees have sufficient daylight hours? Are there ways to encourage people to take breaks from being at their desk all day? Companies should ask employees for their feedback and insights, to ensure plans consider the real-life struggles and concerns of employees.
From having single days of feeling blue, to experiencing severe anxiety attacks, the struggles this year has presented have impacted everyone differently. There is no one size fits all model of mental health support which companies should adopt but rather business leaders should listen to the needs of their employees to ensure that the lessons we’ve learned are taken ahead to build a better future for all.