Recent Office for National Statistics research found that one in five UK adults had experienced some form of depression in early 2021.
Many will find it hard to adjust back into the workplace, and the toll of the pandemic on mental health is likely to be seen for years to come. Research carried out by London Southbank University found that one in five scored highly on their ‘Covid -19 anxiety syndrome scale,’ which refers to how individuals cope with the fear of contracting the virus.
ACAS guidance on mental health states that it is in an employer’s interests to:
- Improve mental health awareness within its organisation.
- Tackle the causes of work-related mental ill health.
- Create a workplace culture where staff feel able to talk about their mental health.
- Support staff who are experiencing mental ill health.
What practical steps can employers take?
- Make sure that staff are taking their annual leave and promoting a culture where it is the norm to take breaks and switch off while on leave. The CIPD’s report on Health and Wellbeing at Work found that more than three quarters of HR professionals were seeing presenteeism in staff and a similar proportion had seen employees working outside of contracted hours or using leave to catch up on work. These patterns need to be proactively addressed by managers.
- Lead from the top by training senior staff and line managers to recognise mental health issues and support wellbeing within their teams.
- Carry out risk assessments to put in place measures and support to avoid issues arising.
- Take staff concerns seriously and properly investigating if employees complain or showing signs of stress.
- For larger organisations in particular, think about having a mental health first aider on site. This is an employee who has undergone training to recognise common mental health illnesses who can guide a colleague towards support.
- Consider setting out the business approach in a policy addressing work-related stress with mental health and wellbeing. Link your commitment to other plans such as strategies to improve staff engagement, corporate social responsibility and supportive and proactive sickness absence policies.
For advice on mental health and stress at work contact Laura Claridge on 01689 887873.