With so much focus on the physical symptoms of coronavirus, there is a lot less focus on the impact of the current pandemic on our mental health.
Many are facing anxiety as a result of having to self-isolate, worried about vulnerable family and friends and stressed about the impact of the outbreak on their jobs. Thousands are facing redundancy and many people have lost their incomes, and the future is uncertain.
It can be difficult to carry on working as normal amid the chaos, particularly when many people are working from home. However, there are steps employers can take to help support their staff and help protect their mental wellbeing.
“It is critical that during times of overwhelming pressure and uncertainty, employers are able to act with clarity and calmness,” says Dr Nick Taylor, clinical psychologist and the co-founder of Unmind, a tech platform combating mental health in the workplace.
To avoid any feelings of isolation and loneliness, organisations should put in place regular check-ins with their workers through digital channels. “This is not only an opportunity to ensure that a clear working routine is being set in place, regardless of where people are working, but also to maintain a level of face-to-face interaction through video-conferences with employees during a time when it can get particularly lonely,” Taylor says.
“Video calls can also help foster a sense of collective identity, reminding employees that they’re part of the bigger picture and connecting them back to the purpose of their role.”
It’s also important to remember that everyone will respond differently to the current situation. Some may thrive when working from home and continue as normal, others may find it more challenging. People with pre-existing mental health conditions may find the situation far harder.
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“We all have mental health, and we all react and respond differently to external factors outside our realm of control,” Taylor says. “Organisations and managers must be alert to the specific needs of individuals and ensure that bespoke support is being offered to people who may be more vulnerable to times like this.”
With many people stuck indoors and unable to leave their homes, digital mental health platforms can be a good way to help employees navigate the pressures of Covid-19 and look after their mental wellbeing.
“Now more than ever, technology can add significant value by empowering employees to proactively manage their mental health in an accessible, and digestible way,” Taylor adds.
It’s also important to help workers manage any stress they may be feeling. Maintaining a routine is crucial and exercise helps too, even if it’s a 15-minute exercise video or a short walk. The flurry of news bombarding every media outlet will inevitably cause feelings of anxiety, so it’s important to encourage people to switch off from time to time and do something enjoyable.
“Organisations must provide transparent information from trustworthy sources to their employees as the news develops daily, and government measures are being set in place by the minute,” Taylor says. “It is pertinent that organisations avoid speculative communication as this can only fuel an inevitable sense of stress and anxiety.
“In this climate of uncertainty, look for ways that you can add certainty for your workforce: communicate clearly on what is happening within the business, keep everyone up to date on the measures you’re taking to keep them safe,” he adds.
“Communicate with facts from trusted sources and avoid speculation. And where you don’t have hard facts, let people know when they can next expect to hear from you. This can help contain anxiety and limit speculation within your workforce.”