Many of us are experiencing higher levels of stress and anxiety than at any other point in our lives. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has affected our lives, professionally and personally.
It’s likely that the current advice to work from home where possible is going to be around for a while. It is therefore important for employers and employees to recognise how this changing dynamic can affect our mental health. Taking care of ourselves, our colleagues, peers and friends is crucial.
Impact of COVID-19 on Employees’ Mental Health
Mental health is the most common cause of long-term sickness absence in the UK. A survey carried out by CIPD and Simplyhealth Health and Well-being found that in 2018/2019, 54% of working days lost were down to “work-related stress, depression or anxiety.”
Poor access to mental health resources can have profound impacts on employers and employees alike. It’s estimated that the cost to UK employers is almost £8 billion a year. Poor mental health in a workplace can lead to increased employee turnover and reduced engagement.
It’s important to note here: The figures we’re looking at are in a pre-pandemic workplace. The impact of COVID-19 on employees’ mental health has been significant.
A survey carried out in 2020 by Ginger, a mental health provider, found that “nearly 7 in 10 employees indicated that the COVID-19 pandemic is the most stressful time of their entire professional career, which has aligned with stark increases in new prescriptions of antidepressant, anti-anxiety, and anti-insomnia medications.”
62% of respondents reported losing at least an hour a day in productivity as a result of pandemic related stress. 32% reported losing more than 2 hours a day.
The survey results highlight how important it is for HR leaders and employers to make employee support a priority during these uncertain times.
Mental Health In A Remote Workplace
Remote working is, for many, the “new normal.” It almost feels strange to imagine what the average work day looked like in a pre-pandemic environment. For some, working from home has provided the perfect work-life balance. For others, the lack of social interaction has been a source of stress.
Employers are also having to adapt to the remote workplace. Ensuring that employees are kept engaged and motivated is key. Equally important, is ensuring that employees are supported and being looked after.
A remote workplace makes this a unique challenge. How can employers ensure they are supporting their remote employees? How is it possible to spot an employee or co-worker who may be experiencing poor mental health without seeing them in person every day?
To further complicate the matter, many of us don’t speak about our mental health issues. It makes it difficult for employers to monitor employees who are working remotely. We’re looking at a number of ways for HR leaders and employers to support remote employees’ mental health.
Supporting Remote Employees’ Mental Health
Stress, anxiety and uncertainty can have a big impact on a business. Issues with mental health can cause a drop in productivity. It can increase sickness, and even lead to higher employee turnover.
In a remote workplace, supporting employees’ mental health may look a bit different, but it is no less important. We’ve put together some tips on supporting remote employees’ mental health below.
Working from home makes it all too easy to work longer hours. Especially when the weather isn’t encouraging us outside! As HR leaders, it’s important to lead by example. Ensure that you are setting a clear work-life balance and encourage employees to do the same.
Create A Culture of Understanding and Acceptance
Unfortunately, many of us do not feel confident talking about our mental wellbeing. Stigma and a fear of judgement or perceived weakness leave many of us to “grin and bear it.” It’s important for HR leaders and employers to create a culture where discussions around mental health are supported and even encouraged.
Check in Regularly
Working remotely can be isolating. Ensure that you are checking-in with your team regularly. Schedule these check-ins in advance and stick to them. You can have group / team check-ins, as well as individual check-ins. Remember, they don’t all have to be focused around the topic of work. Encourage people to discuss things outside of work too.
Create Wellness Action Plans
A Wellness Action Plan (WAP) are great ways to support your team’s mental health. The Wellness Action Plan can be completed by any employee, whether they are concerned about their mental health or not. It’s a great opportunity to put practical steps in place in the event that support is needed down the line. Download a free Wellness Action Plan from Mind by clicking here.
Encourage Mental Health Days
Even in the best of times, there are days where even getting out of bed seems an impossible task. During times of increased stress and anxiety, these feelings can be overwhelming. Sometimes we all need a duvet day on the couch to recharge. Encourage your employees to take these days when needed.
Provide Access to Resources
Ensure that you are circulating appropriate mental health resources for your team. These can include counsellors, and other mental and physical health resources. Some resources you may want to consider include:
Even with the best will in the world, keeping tabs on every employee is no easy task. Employee surveys are a great way to get an idea of how your workforce is feeling. The surveys can help identify areas of concern and the overall organisational score.
Hug can help you support your workforce and provide insightful analysis of your employee wellbeing. Using the data from hug, you can build a happier, healthier, more productive workplace. Interested in finding out how hug can help you support your remote employees’ mental health? Please click here to request your demo today.