You’d be hard pushed to find an industry that hasn’t been affected by Covid. Whether your employees have been working from home, on furlough or working from your office during the pandemic, the way we work is evolving.
Many people may be feeling worried, especially if their working situation is changing again now restrictions have lifted. For some, having to return to their workplace could cause anxiety, depression or aggravate any mental health conditions they may have.
With offices and workplaces reopening across the country, the Mental Health Foundations says we must be aware of ‘returnism’. This is the impact that resuming pre-pandemic working practices will have on our mental health.
Prepare and plan ahead of time
Have you changed your policy, office seating arrangements or working patterns? Perhaps you have strict Covid guidelines? Communicate any changes to your people before they head back into your workplace, so they can feel fully prepared.
You could also look at creating a return to work or office action plan for your employees to help them get started. Why not get your staff to come up with their own plan that meets their needs? You could ask them a set of questions that they can answer in advance to boost their confidence, such as:
- How will they get to work?
- Will anything be different in the office?
- Will they need to do things differently to carry out tasks?
- Who will be there that can support them? Could a colleague meet them at the door, so they don’t have to go in alone?
Recognise the signs
Employees often have difficulties revealing their mental health struggles with their employers. People working from home or on furlough may have been silent about the struggles they’ve been facing and may put on a brave face when returning to the workplace.
Learn to recognise the differences between everyday stress and damaging levels of stress. Educate yourself and your staff on recognising the symptoms of mental ill health, listening, asking for help and showing support to others.
Have regular checks in with your people to find out what is going on in their lives, asking where you can support them. Having these channels of communication can make employees feel valued and may in turn help them open up to you.
Make your support known
Companies are taking additional steps towards improving mental health amongst their workers. Some businesses are offering training for their people to become mental health first aiders, who can act as the first point of contact for anyone in the business experiencing mental health issues. They can provide them with support and signpost them to helpful resources and organisations.
Other firms have introduced an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP). An EAP typically includes counselling (this can be face-to-face, via phone or virtually) and expert advice for anyone experiencing personal or professional concerns.
Be aware of SAD
As we head towards winter, another thing to look out for is employees affected by Seasonal Affective Disorder. Also known as SAD, this is a form of depression which peaks seasonally, becoming most apparent in the winter months. The cause of SAD isn’t completely understood. However, it’s rarer in parts of the world with consistently long, bright days, and so is often linked to shorter days, longer nights and lack of sunlight.
When someone isn’t exposed to enough sunlight, the part of their brain which produces melatonin (the hormone which controls your sleep cycle) and serotonin (the happy hormone) don’t always work as effectively. This can then affect someone’s mood and energy levels.
Often referred to as the ‘Winter Blues’, the severity of this illness can range from lethargy to debilitating sadness and disinterest. Common symptoms include:
- Sleep problems
- Social anxiety
- Persistent low mood
- Mood swings
- Weakened immune systems.
Create a welcoming environment
Having a supportive, friendly workplace can make people who suffer from SAD and other mental disorders feel like they have a safe space to come to each day.
As the days get darker, those with SAD may struggle. It’s a good idea to allow for natural light in your office, encourage activity and strive to provide healthy snacks, such as fruit and nuts instead of sugary treats.
You could also look at office events to bring your team together and get them excited about coming into the workplace again. Some ideas include charity fundraisers, potlucks, lunchtime walking groups and book or movie clubs.
With business health insurance, your people can access services at a time when they need it most. It can help them on the road to recovery and reduce absences in the workplace. Get in touch with our team today to discuss your individual needs. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org