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Supporting Employee Mental Health - Helping Avoid Workplace Stress This February

Crystal Clear Compliance Blog - Feb 2021 by Lucy Walsh

Following a long grey January, a short grey February – still in lockdown – perhaps doesn’t provide us with the positivity so many of us are looking for.

Dealing with the pressures of the third lockdown in the UK has been incredibly difficult for many, each with individual concerns of home-schooling, caring for others, loneliness or troubled relationships. On top of this, the strangeness of the current situation and the loss of those elements of normality which grounded us – maybe the time to read on our commute, the takeaway coffee from the café or the possibility of a quick catch up with colleagues in passing – these things helped us feel safe and secure and we miss them.

Working situations are also a stress factor for many people. While some of us are able to continue our normal role while working at home – often while also managing other demands on our time - there are others whose position demands going out to work in an environment which no longer feels safe and those whose position feels insecure in a changed environment.

What do employers have to do in this current situation to support their staff wellbeing? Should they focus on reducing work-related stress - and is that even possible with less staff available to keep businesses running? Maybe the focus should be on giving individuals space to care for their own wellbeing? What’s certain is that managers cannot neglect their responsibility to be aware of their team’s wellbeing and mental health especially in this current environment.

Take Time to Talk
Once dubbed National Sickie Day, the first Monday of February has been recognised for its high level of employee absences. While the reasons for these absences will vary, a large number of those who are struggling to face work at this time of year will cite tiredness and lack of motivation as the real reason for avoiding time at their desk.

On Thursday 4th Feb, Rethink Mental Illness asked us to use the day to take Time to Talk, the aim being to end mental health discrimination by encouraging us all to talk about our own experience.
While tiredness and lack of motivation do not necessarily signify a problem with mental health, these are signs of a lack of energy and focus which can also signify feelings of stress and anxiety and this should be recognised. As this campaign suggests, talking to others about these feelings is a good first step to promoting better mental health.

The levels of isolation felt by individuals throughout 2020 and into 2021 will obviously depend on their own circumstances and personality. One thing is almost certain however, your team don’t have their usual opportunities to share things which they may be finding tough. As employer or manager, it is your responsibility to be aware of how people are coping and ensure they are able to tell you of any concerns they have – allowing you both to find the right support.

Taking time to check in regularly with those in your team shouldn’t be onerous for anyone, the most important thing is making sure no additional pressure is being added by these updates.
While not everyone who is feeling under pressure will be experiencing poor mental health, it is known that stress and anxiety will impact an individual’s wellbeing and can become a factor in physical and psychological illness including anxiety and depression – more information can be found on the Health and Safety Executive website, Mental health conditions, work and the workplace.

The importance of time and space to talk mustn’t be underestimated. Being able to share concerns about personal pressures without feeling under additional demands to prove your capability in your role is essential when someone is feeling vulnerable or anxious. So, are you confident that within your team you have the skills and knowledge you need to provide the right support – especially in the current environment?

Facing the storm
Many of us will have heard the quote by Damian Barr:
“We are not all in the same boat. We are all in the same storm.”

While we have all had difficulties to deal with in the last 12 months, those difficulties and our resources with which to handle them, will have been very different.

For each person in your team there will likely be different concerns – even within a small group of individuals there will be those thriving with working at home while others are desperate to return to the socialisation of the office. Some will be terrified every time they have to leave home while some who have been furloughed may be hopeful of any opportunity to find some return to normality.
This article by Mind, the mental health charity, provides some recognition of the feelings each of us may face at this time - including stress, anxiety, guilt and anger. It also includes some help and resources for any of us who are struggling with these feelings.

As difficult as it may be, it is an employer’s role to be aware of each individual’s situation and to judge appropriately their needs at this time. This article from ACAS provides some great insights in how you can provide this support.

And, while you are managing the needs and wellbeing of your staff, it is essential that you also recognise your own needs and concerns. Whatever your role, you will only be able to provide your best level of support if you also have the support you need.

Helping You Help Your People
Supporting employees to look after their mental health is not a new thing, but for many of us the circumstances of our current situation may have created barriers or new concerns.

At Crystal Clear Compliance we offer training in Mental Health Awareness and Stress Awareness in the Workplace. These courses are available online meaning you and your employees can have access even when working remotely. These courses will give your people – managers and employees – the chance to recognise how they and those around them are feeling as well as what can be done to support them.

When You Need to Support Your Staff, We Can Support You
If you have any questions about providing your staff with the appropriate mental health training or support, we’re here to help and we’d love to hear from you.

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