Mental Health: How employers are supporting their staff during the COVID-19 crisis

This year, Mental Health Awareness Week will take place from 18-24 May. And while the theme for this year is kindness, the COVID-19 pandemic has thrown up many new challenges for businesses in terms of how to take care of your staff.

The UK lockdown has forced large swathes of the population to work from home, physically isolated from their colleagues. This is a situation that many have never found themselves in before, and both businesses and workers have had to adapt to a much lower level of social interaction than they were used to.

In the REC’s most recent JobsOutlook survey, conducted between 1-9 April, we found that the majority of employers had been taking action to support the mental health of their employees during the coronavirus outbreak. Of those who offered remote working, two in three (64%) ensured that all teams hold regular virtual meetings to tackle isolation, while half (51%) had circulated information and exercises promoting wellbeing to their staff.

It is also important to remember that people do not just come to work for the work. With offices across the country closed, many people are also missing the more casual social aspects of their jobs. With that in mind, it is encouraging that 57% of employers who offer home working have held virtual staff socials, to help their employees keep in touch on a more casual basis during the lockdown.

On the other end of the spectrum, millions of people are still travelling to work, especially in essential sectors like healthcare and logistics, and putting themselves at a higher risk of infection in the process. Our most recent JobsOutlook survey found that 44% of employers did not offer home working. During a global pandemic, this is sure to take a toll on the mental health of those workers who cannot work remotely.

However, even where home-working is not possible, businesses are taking steps to ensure that they are keeping in touch with and looking after their staff. Three in five (61%) of all businesses have been identifying and reaching out to vulnerable staff on a personal level, and half (52%) have offered more flexible working arrangements, such as working outside normal hours or taking more frequent breaks. Importantly for this current situation, two in three (68%) have allowed staff more flexibility to deal with sickness in the family.

It is very encouraging to see business leaders becoming more people-focused in this time of crisis. Many firms, even in the recent past, would not have been as likely to actively think about staff who might be struggling personally, have problems at home, or need more support. And with employee benefits and support packages becoming even more important for job seekers, it could provide a competitive advantage for the organisations that do this best – firms that do all they can to support their staff now will put themselves in a great position once the jobs market recovers and people start looking for new jobs again.

We are holding a #MentalHealthAwarenessWeek special webinar this Thursday at 2pm to discuss strategies to develop positive mindsets as you prepare your people to get back to work. Sign up now to join our discussion

Image credit | iStock

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