How are you feeling? - Looking after your employees' mental well being
This week is Mental Health Awareness week so I thought I'd explore how employers can support their employees during this anxiety-raising time period.
Everyone is facing challenges at the moment regardless of how any business has been impacted by COVID-19. Businesses who are busier than normal could have employees who feel overwhelmed by the workload. People who are working from home could be feeling isolated or struggling to get work done with families vying for their attention. People on furlough are likely to be concerned about the future with thoughts of potential redundancies. And, as lockdown eases, many people may be feeling anxious about returning to an environment that potentially could expose them to catching the virus.
All employers have a duty of care to their people and this includes being aware of and supporting their mental well being. There are a number of ways you can do this.
The easiest and most obvious one is talking to your people; asking them how they are feeling and what concerns they currently have. This works whatever your business situation is. Just talking and having someone listen to you can relieve a lot of the stress people are facing. When you feel heard, you feel valued.
It's a good idea to make a list of people who may be most vulnerable – this could be people who you know have had mental health struggles previously, people who live on their own, people who normally perform well but appear to have had a drop-off in their performance or people you know have difficult home lives such as being a carer. You can find these things out by talking to them – you don't have to dig deep into personal areas that people are not comfortable sharing but if you ask open questions about how they are coping and what worries they currently have, people will generally open up and share.
If you know who your most vulnerable people are, you can agree ways in which you may be able to support them. This could include more regular check-ins, providing external counselling (if you can afford to do so), temporarily adjusting performance targets or putting them in touch with organisations who might be able to provide support tailored to their circumstances.
Another thing employers can do is to provide information about how to access support for all of your people. In previous organisations I've worked with, I have created a mental health fact sheet giving simple tips around sleeping well, eating healthily and mindfulness techniques as well as providing website information and telephone numbers where people can get additional help.
My last blog covered some aspects of the importance of consulting your people about changes in the future and the challenges the business might be facing. Being open and honest about things can often be reassuring – there is nothing worse than being in a vacuum because our minds will often dwell on the worst case scenario. Giving individuals information allows them to have some control over the decisions they need to make to protect their future.
This also holds true when addressing concerns about returning to work. A lot of organisations who are getting people back in to the work place have being doing so on a consensual basis but not all can do this. Early conversations with people and involving them in the development of risk assessments and prevention measures will help them to be reassured that their concerns will be heard and you are looking out for their overall well being. Once people are back in the work place, regular check-ins will help to keep you alert to any early issues that may be arising – it is always better to be ahead of the curve as it will reduce the impact of any issues so while it may be time consuming, it will pay-off in the end.
A lot of businesses may decide to increase home working after seeing how successful it has been during this period. While some people bloom in a home working environment, others struggle and it is important that employers consider this when adopting a new approach. And if you do increase home working, put in place measures to identify if people are having a hard time so that you can agree steps to support them before it becomes something more serious.
Basically, the overall message is that it is good to talk – if you don't know about an issue, you can't address it.
2020 HR can help with any Mental Well Being strategy development, support you with your people check-ins, managing a change process and many other people matters – it costs nothing to have a 30 minute chat with me so get in touch.