Your Employees may need additional mental health support during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, if they already have mental health problems they may be impacted more.
In many cases, Employees may need support such as:
It is important that you are understanding towards the needs and concerns of your Employees, they are now working in unexpected and new ways, as we are now calling it ‘the new norm’. These may be for example, working from home and managing childcare.
If Employees need to take time off to look after someone else, you should demonstrate empathy, this could be caring for others and perhaps flexible working arrangements.
When talking about any difficult changes in your workplace, for example placing Employees on ‘furlough’ which is temporary leave, matters like this should be dealt with sensitively.
It is imperative that communication with Employees is clear, concise and carried out in a calm manner as your Employees may be feeling anxious or stressed.
How can you support your team?
Be approachable, available and encourage your Employees to talk to either you or a Line Manager, be there for them when they need support or if they are experiencing any problems.
Adapting your style to suit your Employees is the best approach as each person will react differently.
You could ask Employees if they prefer to talk through online video meetings, over the telephone, or by email.
You should keep in regular contact with your Employees to check how they are coping, when you do this you should check:
- How they are feeling at the moment
- How their work and workload is going and if they need support
- If they have any concerns about safety if they are leaving the home to go to work
- If they have the right set up when working from home
During the pandemic you may have found that your business has slowed down or perhaps your business has improved, to ensure you align this you should also make sure your Employees have realistic targets and clear priorities.
Above all your Employees should still feel supported and motivated at work.
How can you support furloughed Employees?
We believe it is beneficial for Employees to maintain contact whilst they are on Furlough, to do this you do need to then ask them if they would like to consent to this and to keep in touch while they are on furlough leave.
This contact where consented to must be agreed mutually including how often you will catch up; this would be depending on your Employees individual needs.
Staying in contact with Employees can help them feel connected with the workplace. It is also a chance to ask how they are and talk through any worries and concerns.
It is important to remember that ‘catching up’ does not mean requesting your Employees to carry out any work during any furloughing period as this is against the Scheme rules.
How can you spot the possible signs of a mental health problem?
It is possible that not all Employees will show obvious signs of mental health problems, you should not make assumptions, some possible signs that may be displayed at work include:
- Appearing tired, anxious or withdrawn
- Increase in sickness absence or being late to work
- Changes in the standard of work or focus on tasks
- Being less interested in tasks that had previously been enjoyed
- Changes in usual behaviour, mood or how the Employees behaves with the people they work with
When your Employee works from home it can be harder to spot these signs, this can be because you have no or less contact with them or when they have higher levels of stress and anxiety.
You should ask your Employees how they are coping and then create an environment where they feel able to be open and honest about how they are feeling.
The sooner you become aware that someone you manage is experiencing a mental health problem, the sooner you can provide help and support.
How to approach mental health problems?
It can be difficult knowing how to approach and talk to an Employee who has a mental health problem, as a business owner or a Line Manager this may seem difficult. Once you spot the signs or you believe an Employee may be experiencing a mental health problem, you should:
- Arrange a conversation as soon as possible
- You should also make sure you talk to them in private
- Be flexible about when and where
- Approach the conversation in a positive and supportive way
How to handle Employees who open up to you about their mental health?
This can be one of the biggest steps for your Employee and it may be difficult for them, it is important you are calm, you show empathy, you demonstrate patience and that you are supportive and reassuring.
When they approach you, you should thank them for opening up to you and give them as much time as they need, this will no doubt be appreciated by them.
During the conversation, you should:
- Listen carefully to what they say
- Try to identify what the cause is, for example by keeping questions open ended
- Think about ways to help, for example if there is any support, you can provide them in the workplace
- Reassure them, let them know you will help them get the support they need
If either of you need to think about what has been discussed before any decisions are made, you should agree to have some time to think things through.
You should always reassure them that the information will remain confidential.
Do you need to make reasonable adjustments for someone with a disability?
If you believe that your Employees mental health problem is considered a disability under the law, your workplace must consider making reasonable adjustments to help them carry out their job without being at a disadvantage.
What about support for yourself?
You must also remember your own mental health too, it maybe you find that you need advice and support for your own mental health. You or your Line Managers may be under more pressure than usual to support your Employees and resolve problems.
It may be helpful to talk things through with someone who can support you, for example:
- Your own Line Manager
- Someone else at work
- Through a mental health ‘champion’ or network in the workplace
- A trained counsellor if you can access one through in the workplace
If your workplace offers counselling, it will usually be through a scheme known as an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP).
How can the HR and You team help you?
We are here to support you during Covid-19 and have produced a range of downloads for you to use in this range, you can contact us to learn more or to ask us anything at all about Employee Mental Health and Wellbeing.