How to look after your staff’s mental health during coronavirus

Laura Ross
Marketing Executive - Membership
30th March 2020

Are you feeling anxious? Suffering from mood swings? Angry? Despairing? Paranoid? Well, you’re not alone – levels of employee anxiety is soaring with fears around coronavirus.

This is affecting mental health across all workplaces with levels of employee anxiety soaring. It’s hardly surprising given everything that is going on right now.

Not only is it a challenging time for each of us individually, it is also a very challenging time for our workforce, communities and our economy. Our lives have changed overnight and there is uncertainty around everything – our freedom, our jobs, our health and more. This added pressure and uncertainty will undoubtedly have an effect on your workforces’ mental wellbeing. 

So how can employers acknowledge this and support their workforce? We've had some great tips through from the Mindful Employer Network in Swindon that we wanted to share:

Working Well From Home

In a time where staff are being asked to work from home or self-isolate for long periods of time it is important to have a robust structure in place to support them where possible.

Tips for managers 

1.    Why not set up a buddy system for your team, so colleagues can check in with other on a daily basis. 

2.    Managers should also be checking in with their staff daily this includes at least one conversation over Skype or phone. 

3.    You may also want to set up a weekly team catch up for all colleagues to dial into, feeling part of a team is really important for good mental health. 

4.    Managers also need to promote the importance of not working more than 40 hours a week and ensuring staff take a 30-minute lunch break every day even if they are working from home. This means that as a manager you also need to take responsibility for your own mental wellbeing and self-care.

5.    If you are concerned about a staff member there are lots of national and local mental health services available through the ‘local offer’ of your local authority. 

Tips for staff

1.    Keep your structure, get up and get dressed, make sure you have a lunch break scheduled, make sure you set clear working hours, don’t work over 40 hours a week. 

2.    Schedule in your check-ins with your team in the diary, whether that’s an email check in, call or Skype make sure your in touch every day when you are working.

3.    Keep your online calendar up to date, so people can check when it’s a good time to check in.

4.    Set your priorities for the week so you have focus on key projects with your line manager.

5.    Ask for help if you need it, does your employer offer an employer assist programme, can you contact your line manager or HR. 

Looking after your wellbeing

Mental Health is something we all have and we all need to look after, it is important during this time to build in measures to support your mental wellbeing, even if you are forced to self-isolate.

Tips for looking after your wellbeing

1. Find ways to relax – set time to meditate, breathe, have some time alone after work.

2. Stay connected- social connections are extremely important for good mental health, consider phone, text, Skype and stay in touch with friends, family, colleagues on a daily basis.

3. Keep active - Sport England have just released some great tips of staying active during self-isolation.

4. Using this time to develop - is there some eLearning you can undertake such as future learn-  this might help you stay focused. 

5. Would you like some further advice? NHS Mind Matters, Thrive Bristol and Mind are useful resources.

6. If you are really struggling with your mental health don’t forget there are people that can help you - here is an example from Swindon Borough Council.

7. Here is a helpful article about 10 tips to help with anxiety about coronavirus 

How to support your childrens' mental health

Many employees now have the added pressure of looking after children as well as carrying out their jobs from home. They will be having to support their children during this difficult time and manage their children’s stress and anxiety too. Unicef has some great advice on how to speak to your children about coronavirus.

Leadership and wellbeing 

During this time it is really important that leaders look after their mental wellbeing, particularly as you may well be supporting a stressed workforce or have financial pressures that you didn’t have before. 

  • Set up peer support, are there other leaders you can talk to, can you support each other?
  • Are you taking all the steps you can to look after your wellbeing? 
  • Are you keeping active? 
  • Are you eating well? 
  • Are you taking enough breaks?

 Where possible it is also helpful to keep internal communications structured and factual, but also to include communications around wellbeing and other topics other than the coronavirus, having positive news where possible will have a big impact on positive mental wellbeing. 

In conclusion, we all need to look after each other during these unprecedented times and this includes employers looking after their staff. Listen to a colleague who is feeling stressed. Pick up shopping for a vulnerable neighbour if you can. Be a good teamworker to share workloads if colleagues need to take time off. We’re all in this together so finding postive ways to support each other has never been more important. 

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