How to get mental health support at work when restrictions are lifted

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“The pandemic has brought about significant and sudden changes in our lives, including the way we work. As the lockdown eases, employees will again have to adapt quickly, presenting challenges to our sanity. “

Many people have found that their mental health has been affected by the easing of the lockdown. Photo by Surface on Unsplash

If your sanity has taken a hit with the end of Covid restrictions, you are not alone.

More than half of people felt worried about seeing and being around other people before lockdown rules were completely relaxed on so-called ‘Freedom Day’ on July 19, research shows run by a mental health charity Listen.

And 46% of those who had been vaccinated were still worried about catching coronavirus, according to a survey of nearly 10,000 people in England.

The pandemic has also meant that one in four adults and more than one in six young people have experienced mental distress for the first time, while NHS figures show the number of people in contact with mental health services is highest since the first lockdown.

While some people will continue to work from home for the foreseeable future, many companies have adopted a hybrid model, which means some employees may be facing a return to the office for the first time since the March 2020 lockdown.

Emma Mamo, Head of Workplace Wellbeing at Mind, said: “The pandemic has brought about significant and sudden changes in our lives, including the way we work. As the lockdown eases, employees will again have to adapt quickly, presenting challenges to our sanity. “

What workplaces can do to support employees

There are many “inexpensive little tweaks,” according to Mamo.

People returning to the office may be faced with daily commutes on busier public transport and also around people who have chosen not to wear masks, which can cause anxiety. One of the ways that workplaces can support their staff is by offering flexible working hours to allow staff to avoid a busy commute. Mind also suggests that subsidized exercise classes and generous vacation allowances “can make a huge difference to employees.”

Mamo recommends using Action plans for the well-being of the mind, available free online. She said, “Developed with your manager, these tailored plans can help you identify your individual triggers for stress and poor mental health and describe what can help prevent or relieve symptoms.”

How to talk about your mental health at work

“You don’t have to be an expert to talk about mental health, but organizations need to make sure that employees feel they have the skills and knowledge they need to be able to identify and to support their colleagues when they encounter a problem, especially for those who work remotely, where it may be more difficult to communicate and spot signs, ”said Mamo.

Training courses such as Mental Health First Aid or those offered by Mind can provide employers and employees with greater understanding and awareness.

Mamo added: “Because our physical and mental health go hand in hand, we would like training to be given the same priority as physical first aid in the workplace, so that staff know what to do if a colleague has problems with their health. mental health, or a mental health crisis.

How to talk to your coworkers about their mental health

If you’re worried about a coworker, ask them how they’re doing, listen non-judgmentally, support them, and let them know how they’re doing internally and externally.

Mamo said, “Try to avoid making assumptions about your coworker’s mental health and its impact on their work. People with mental health issues can and do make a valuable contribution to the workplace, but some may need additional support. “

The advantages of prioritizing employee well-being

According to Mind, organizations that prioritize employee well-being have workers who are more productive, loyal, and less likely to take sick leave.

“With poor mental health rampant across the country, the well-being of staff has never been a higher priority for employers,” Mamo said.

Legal requirements to support mental health at work

Under the Equality Act 2010, employees who disclose that they have a disability, including mental health issues that have a substantial effect on your day-to-day operations, are legally entitled to reasonable adjustments.

These could include more regular catch-ups with managers, a change of workspace, working hours or breaks.

Mamo said: “We want employers to create an environment where staff feel able to speak openly about stress and poor mental health at work, including all the issues they face – whether personal, professionals or a combination. “

How to talk to your boss about your mental health

It can be difficult to open up to your boss for the first time.

Ideally, your manager or supervisor would create a space for you to talk about any issues you face – personal or business – by checking in regularly with staff or including a “temperature check” at meetings to review. current measures in place to support mental well-being.

If your manager doesn’t create the space for you to talk about wellness, it can be more difficult to start that dialogue. It depends on the relationship you have with your manager, but if you have a good relationship and trust him, you can meet with him one-on-one to discuss what’s going on. The presence of an HR person will make the meeting more formal and would not normally be necessary at first. But if you don’t get anything in the first meeting, this might be a smart next step.

If you are planning to speak to your boss for the first time, also consider where you would like the meeting to take place.

If you are having nothing to do with your managers and HR team, or if you are treated differently, demoted or even lose your job because of the disclosure of a mental health problem, seek advice from Acas or the Mind legal line – 0300 466 6463 (lines open Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. or by email [email protected]).

For information and support on staying mentally healthy right now, visit www.mind.org.uk/coronavirus.

For free resources for employers to help improve mental wellness, visit www.mind.org.uk/work.

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