The past eighteen months of the pandemic has affected us all in different ways and we’re having to adjust to a ‘new normal’ – whether that means back to pre-lockdown ways of working, or more of a hybrid mixture of home and office working.
This will be harder for some than others and can impact people’s mental health badly if they’re already struggling. So how do you support staff who are having a tough time holding it all together? People Director Kerry Howard, a mental health first aider, offers some very practical steps that employers can take to assess the wellbeing of their staff and ensure they have a positive attitude to mental health in the workplace.
- Check-in regularly
Remote working means we’ve lost the opportunity to have those little interactions that people normally have in the workplace – where you’d normally ask ‘how are you doing?’. But how do you know how your colleagues are coping if you don’t ask them? Make time to check in with your colleagues with no work agenda. It not only gives you the opportunity to find out how they are, but it’ll also make them feel valued.
- Listen without judgement
If someone trusts you enough to reach out and admit they’re struggling, listen to them non-judgementally. Don’t try to ‘solutionise’ the problem, just listen, ask what support they’d like and empower them by providing a signpost for help. Be clear with what support you can give – it’s important that the individual owns their problem. Organise a follow-up meeting so they know you’ll talk to them again.
- Get professional support in place
Employee assistant programmes (EAPs) are great for smaller organisations that don’t have a dedicated HR department. For an annual fee, they’ll give your employees access to trained consultants who can offer advice and support. Calls are treated anonymously and so offer an alternative to employees not comfortable talking to a colleague. If you offer private healthcare as part of your employment package, check whether it includes counselling.
- Provide mental health awareness training
If your managers know how to recognise signs of depression or anxiety, and the best steps to take when they do, they may be able to prevent the situation from escalating to a crisis point. At People Puzzles, we’ve run many one-day and half-day training for our clients to promote better mental health awareness and practical ways to support colleagues. Better still, you could get one of your staff members trained up as a mental health first aider. However, be careful not to force someone into doing this; it’s best done voluntarily.
- Be flexible
Being as flexible as possible will go a long way to help remove any unnecessary burdens of employees who are struggling. People may need to ask for time off for dependents or compassionate leave if they’re grieving the death of a relative. Be as accommodating as possible when dealing with these requests. It’s more important than ever that we all try to support each other in making this ‘new normal’ work for everyone.
If you’d like to create a positive attitude to mental health in your workplace, give us a call on 020 8038 3443 to arrange a chat with one of our Directors to discuss how we can help you achieve that for your business.
Kerry Howard, People Director