COVID-19 has brought this nation to its knees. Whether it’s from the impact of the virus itself or the implications of the everchanging restrictions, the fallout has caused damaging consequences felt in every aspect of our society. We’ve watched as the nation’s physical health has deteriorated due to both Covid and non – Covid related illnesses. Mental health has taken a significant hit, as has social and spiritual wellbeing, highlighting the shortfalls of the systems designed to protect us. Despite the promise of support, the financial impact has left many unable to afford basic necessities and reliant on food banks. The unprecedented economic squeeze continues to plague our hardworking businesses and offers little hope of a speedy recovery.
Surpassing the 100,000 death toll was a heart-breaking reminder of the loss this nation has witnessed, hastily followed by the troubling thought that this statistic does not consider deaths caused by the secondary impact of Covid. The number of those who are no longer with us due to postponed treatment or poor mental health is unknown and may never be truly accounted for. As with any loss of life, knitting the wounds and healing our communities will continue to be an ongoing process.
Time to Talk Day is an opportunity to explore and educate ourselves on the topic of mental health. The pain we’ve felt over the past year means that this dialogue is more crucial than ever. Together we can analyse the past, understand the present and prepare for the future.
Working in a New Abnormal World
The traditional concept of ‘standard working practices’ has been side-lined, making room for strict social distancing measures, working from home practices and even furlough. Many are juggling additional responsibilities, such as childcare and home-schooling.
A recent study by ORACLE and Workplace Intelligence showed that unsurprisingly, 2020 was the most stressful year ever. Out of the 12,000 participants:
- 78% say the pandemic has negatively affected their health.
- 85% say their mental health issues are causing sleep deprivation, poor physical health, reduced happiness at home, suffering family relationships or isolation from friends.
- 76% of workers believe that their company should do more to protect the mental health of the workforce.
In 2019/20, 828,000 workers suffered from work-related stress, depression or anxiety (new or longstanding) and 17.9 million working days were lost due to these symptoms. (Labour Force Survey 2019/20)
These statistics indicate the disruption and cost of poor mental health and wellbeing, on both personal and organisational levels. During these challenging times, it’s paramount that employers understand the impact this can have on their workforce.
What can businesses do to help?
Creating a Culture of Wellbeing and Happiness
Building an organisational culture of wellbeing, happiness and success is a fundamental aspect in combating the widespread impact of poor mental health and wellbeing. Adapting priorities and ingraining a culture of care can require a considerable shift, however, the transformation offers numerous benefits for both the employers and employees.
Understand the Trails and Challenges
It’s easy to look at an organisation favourably and miss the key indicators of poor mental health and wellbeing. The statistics combat this thinking and demonstrate that it’s more than blind optimism to assume a business is unaffected by these issues.
We encourage organisations to construct appropriate channels to raised concerns for problems identified or experienced within the workplace. This can be achieved through one-to-one sessions, focus groups, anonymous feedback collection and internal wellbeing audits. Successful augmentation of these channels will provide valuable insight into the inner workings of a business and any difficulties faced by team members.
Managerial Training and Awareness
Despite the widespread impact of poor mental health and wellbeing, the subject is still encompassed by a dangerous stigma which continues to hinder openness and prevent important discussions. It is not uncommon for these problems to be exacerbated and even caused by the mismanagement of staff.
Effectively reapproaching and reintroducing the subject is a key stage building an effective organisational culture of wellbeing. We recommend an ‘inside out’ approach, starting with the leaders and managers at the core of the organisation. This creates awareness, exploring the impact and introducing effective management techniques. Training solutions come in many different packages and can be tailored to suit both organisational standards and the needs of team members. While off the shelf packages can beneficial, they may struggle to get to the heart of the issue and due to this, we recommend investing in bespoke training solutions.
Mental Health Ambassadors and Wellbeing Champions
Team leaders and managers can often feel unprepared for hard-hitting conversations, unsure about how to approach delicate topics or concerned that their support may offer limited benefit. If the topic of poor mental health is not openly and sensitively addressed, staff may be deterred from raising the subject or confiding in team members. To avoid this, we recommend the effective approach of training Mental Health Ambassadors and Wellbeing Champions. Introducing this role to team members creates a responsibility, boosts the prioritisation wellbeing and builds important relationships within the team.
Effective Support and Signposting to Wellbeing Resources
In any situation, it is possible that those struggling may require additional help from external services or those with further training in mental health. Effective signposting to appropriate support services and resource pools offers an additional safety net which is beneficial to all. This provides a point contact and an opportunity to seek guidance for those who need further assistance or maybe uncomfortable disclosing their issues within the workplace.
Although this environment is unsettling, it provides us with an opportunity to make a positive difference. Employers have a large role to play in healing our communities and helping the nation to recover from the devastating impact of COVID-19.
We have been designing organisational cultures of happiness, wellbeing, success and optimal performance, for companies around the world since 2003. We witnessed the benefits and want to empower others to make positive changes.
So, what are you doing to support your team?
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