Mental Health Awareness Week 2020: Supporting Your Employees

Mary Palmer

We’re all feeling the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. Whether you’re a business owner worrying about cash flow or an employee struggling with the reality of furlough, these strange times have impacted almost every aspect of our daily lives.

And, whether you have an existing mental health problem or not, this “new normal” is probably only serving to exacerbate that – with a 24 hour news and social media cycle of confusing and conflicting updates; the inability to spend time with loved ones; worrying about paying bills or catching the virus itself.

As a business owner, executive or team manager, it’s more important than ever to check in on the mental health of your employees, whether they are still working or not.

Here are just some ideas as to how you can provide support during Mental Health Awareness Week and beyond.

Check in regularly

Ensure that your teams are keeping in touch with each other on a regular basis. Perhaps suggest a weekly catch up over a cuppa to mimic elevenses in the office. Seeing your colleagues faces over a video chat – or, at a basic level, keeping in touch via text – will make the world of difference, particularly to furloughed employees who may feel even more out of the loop.

Minimise remote burnout

Just because our laptops and mobiles are now in our homes doesn’t mean we should feel pressure to be tied to them 24/7. Ensure that you stick to normal working hours, as much as possible, when it comes to communication. The last thing you want is for your teams to feel burned out. Encourage your teams to take lunch breaks and be able to switch off as normal. The lines are so blurred right now that “down time” is even more crucial.

Combat the stigma

Everyone is feeling the strain, so now is the perfect time to broach the subject of mental health. By having regular, normal conversations about how everyone is feeling (and perhaps what they’re doing to cope), you’ll open up a platform for safe, de-stigmatised conversations about mental health that will hopefully continue long after the pandemic.

Encourage safe activity

Under normal circumstances, going on a long walk to clear your head or even hitting the gym to release endorphins would be the solution to issues such as stress, anxiety or depression. Whilst this isn’t entirely possible, you can encourage your teams to safely go for a walk, jog, run or cycle (observing good hygiene and social distancing measures) or even take up an online fitness class to help alleviate mental health issues.

Communication skills

Right now, employees only want to know one of a few things: When can I come back to work? Will I still be paid? What does furlough mean for me? So, there is no sense in bombarding them with emails or updates that don’t contain any of this information. Similarly, when you are providing updates, think carefully about how these are worded. And, if you do have to make tough decisions, a phone call or video call is always more appropriate than an email.

However you choose to support your colleagues this Mental Health Awareness Week and beyond, we hope you are all keeping safe and well.

If you are struggling and need support, charities such as See Me Scotland, Breathing Space and the Samaritans have great online resources and can still be reached via phone call.

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