This year’s World Mental Health Day carries the theme Mental Health for all: Greater Investment – Greater Access. In 2020, HR teams are facing a complex mental health challenge, influenced by a growing list of factors both in and outside the workplace. So how can employers ensure they are equipped to respond to the everchanging mental health landscape?
Coronavirus continues to highlight our differences
Back in May we released the Divided Together report. The 1500-person study looked at the physical and mental wellbeing of the country during the initial COVID-19 lockdown. Just two months into Britain’s pandemic response, over 50% of those surveyed thought their mental health had got worse.
COVID-19 has brought with it the popular narrative that “we’re all in this together”. While it may feel like the world’s at sea, it’s becoming clear that we’re not all in the same boat. For those working from home, Zoom meetings highlight stark differences in working environments. For some, the furlough scheme has created a mental health paradox. Of those furloughed, 72% reported feeling less pressure, but 64% are worried about eventually losing their job. And while almost half (47%) of those going into work throughout lockdown felt proud, other positives were rare. The results reveal vast differences in our everyday struggles, even amongst people in seemingly similar situations.
Mental health needs are more nuanced than ever
It would be too simplistic to lump employees into categories or assume their preferences. Just because someone has enjoyed working from home doesn’t mean they wish to make the arrangement permanent. While 51% said they will miss the way they’ve been working over the last few months, 71% agreed that they are keen to get back to normal. A conflict of desires is emerging, with employees facing mixed feelings over their working conditions and mental health.
Internal surveys and employee questionnaires are a good start, but they struggle to capture the nuances of daily life for a workforce grappling with continual change and uncertainty. The Divided Together report found that 29% of people wanted more mental health support from their employer. That’s almost 1 in 3 employees asking for help. With the gap between those thriving and those struggling quietly expanding, now is the time to build a mental health strategy which truly adapts to individual circumstances.
Building a culture of openness
Colleagues may be reluctant to ask for help or be unsure what type of support would suit them best. In the past, employees may have only heard from the HR department when things are going wrong. It’s a reputation that can be hard to shake.
Build trust by fostering a culture of two-way conversation and leading by example. When asked how you are, answer honestly to enable others to do the same, especially senior leaders. Often the first way to put your mental health strategy into practice is to simply take the time to understand each other. Supportive, open communication will build confidence in your leadership team.
Some employees may respond better to peer-to-peer support. Our Mental Health First Aid courses enable employees to act as a first point of contact for mental health issues in the workplace, providing an informal channel for discussion which encourages early intervention. The courses are certified by Mental Health First Aid England and can be carried out online by groups or individuals.
Resources for your mental health strategy
The pandemic has put all eyes on wellbeing and forced the working world to reinvent itself. Various webinars, online events and support services are responding to the ever-changing challenges faced by organisations across the globe. Here are a few helpful resources to get you started:
A culture change won’t happen overnight, but proactive HR teams will uncover a healthy return on investment from open dialogue with employees. Now more than ever, we must understand our differences and build a truly flexible approach to workplace mental health.