What do employers need to understand about the effects of COVID-19 on our Mental Health?
NHS Digital showed mental health problems now account for four in 10 (41 per cent) of all sick notes signed by GPs during the pandemic.
How will COVID-19 affect our mental health?
No one knows exactly what the impacts of COVID-19 will be. There are many factors to consider including the impact of the lockdown and ongoing restrictions such as social distancing and self-isolation.
For some employees the issue of friends, family and self, contracting the virus is the biggest fear. Furthermore, some employees are working longer or more irregular hours. Many are combining work with home-schooling and other family responsibilities. Consequently, long term this leads to a poor work-life balance.
Early research into the health impacts of lockdown found that; fatigue, musculoskeletal conditions, poor work life balance, reduced exercise and increased alcohol consumption are key exacerbators towards poor health.
The following have been identified as effects on health and wellbeing in employees due to lockdown:
- reduced motivation
- loss of purpose and motivation
- anxiety and isolation
- irritability and anger
- depression and post-traumatic stress symptoms
Early intervention within all levels of an organisation is essential to reduce problems with health and wellbeing. Most noteworthy would be that organisations are able to identify and understand the signs and symptoms of poor mental health. Furthermore, it is an opportunity to take early action to prevent the situation escalating. Sharing information can also enable employees to identify signs, especially early ones, in themselves and seek support.
Typical signs and symptoms of poor or declining mental health are more difficult to identify in employees working from home or more flexibly.
Typical signs include:
- Working long hours / not taking breaks
- Increased sickness absence or lateness
- Mood changes
- Distraction, indecision or confusion
- Irritability, anger or aggression
- Uncharacteristic performance issues
- Over-reaction to problems or issues
- Disruptive or anti-social behaviour.
What can you do as an employer to try and educate people about mental health?
- Briefing and coaching managers on the potential implications of COVID-19. Defining their specific roles and responsibilities in relation to supporting staff. https://afcconsultants.co.uk/individual-coaching-programmes/
- Communicate regularly on wellbeing and mental health support.
- Encourage employees to carry out activities that promote physical, mental, financial and social wellbeing.
- Provide mental health awareness-raising activities. Hence, work towards a culture where is acceptable to talk about and seek support for poor mental health. https://afcconsultants.co.uk/personaldevelopment/mental-resilience-and-managing-stress/
- Finally, a positive idea to help people to feel safe, valued and engaged would be to deliver a re-induction programme for:
- employees who have been furloughed
- employees who have been working at home during lockdown
- or employees employed during lockdown
Andrée Funnell of AFC is an ex HR Senior Manager who has experienced poor health, stress at work and working in a senior role whilst bringing up a young family. She has personally experienced burnout and mental health issues starting with symptoms of anxiety and stress which she ignored to her detriment.
Andrée also has experience of dealing with employees with health and wellbeing issues, mental health, financial issues and more. Call or contact her on 07702 818665 or use the contact form on our website: https://afcconsultants.co.uk/contact/