Mental health has rightly been an important consideration for employers for some years now. However, COVID-19 will have brought many different pressures for people, while the long-term impact on mental health is unknown. Employers will need to take steps to support employees as we emerge from lockdown.
Stresses could include the effects of the lockdown and ongoing restrictions such as social distancing and self-isolation. Some employees may be concerned about the virus itself and others will be fearful about the potential transmission to family and friends. In addition, the vast death toll (both direct and indirect) will mean that many employees will have suffered bereavements during this time, potentially without the chance to say goodbye or attend funerals.
In addition to the above, employees will be fearful of losing jobs, returning to different workplace to the one they left, travelling to work using public transport and financial concerns arising from furlough or a partner losing their job. In some cases there is the added pressure of home-schooling and other family responsibilities, leading to a poor work-life balance.
Here are five key things employers can do to manage employees’ mental health:
1. Be proactive and talk to people about their mental health, identifying any employees who are struggling and might need support.
2. Where appropriate undertake risk assessments to ensure that you are aware of the issues.
3. Provide support or adjustments to the job so that the employees feel safe, looked after and supported.
4. Signpost employees to help which might be available through employee assistance programs, human resources, occupational health, support groups.
5. Brief managers on the potential mental health implications of COVID-19 and their specific roles and responsibilities in relation to supporting staff.