Remote working due to COVID-19 has caused a wave of disconnection and loneliness among employees up and down the country. Having experienced first-hand the challenges posed by mental illness in today’s work environment, Ian Hurst, co-founder of We are Hummingbird shares advice on how to help employees during this time.
As local lockdowns become enforced across the country, Hurst says: “Now more than ever, it’s important to support friends, family and colleagues to break the stigma around mental health.”
“Many of us are experiencing extremely stressful and challenging times, coupled with financial insecurity. For some, this period of heightened anxiety may trigger profound feelings of despair.”
COVID-19, and its impact on mental health, has been well documented, with Nuffield Health finding that 80% of people feel working from home has harmed their mental health. At the same time, a recent report from the Office of National Statistics says that 69% of adults in the UK feel worried about the effect COVID-19 is having on their life, with more than half (56%) feeling stressed or anxious.
In response, We are Hummingbird has launched a series of mental health first aid training sessions, designed to help businesses identify when employees are struggling during this time of uncertainty.
Hurst’s mental health first aid training aims to remove the clinical jargon, to help educate as many people as possible in mental health first aid. He explains: “It’s recommended to have a mental health first aider in every workplace who can identify the signs of when someone is experiencing poor mental health and take what are often simple steps to assist them. Employers need to treat mental health in the same way as physical health.”
Ian provides the following top tips for what businesses can do to help maintain their employees’ wellbeing while working from home:
- Invest in creating mental health first aiders – Recognising the signs of mental ill-health is more important than ever, and developing the ability to approach someone will help team members support their co-workers.
- Mental health email address – Set up a dedicated email address that employees can confidently message if they feel they need support but are too nervous to call someone to explain over the phone.
- Short notice annual leave days – Guaranteed instant approval of annual leave for employees needing time off to improve their wellbeing.
- Encourage virtual social events – From a remote tea break to sessions dedicated to even evening cheese tasting, these virtual social gatherings help to keep people connected, so nobody feels isolated during this difficult time.
- Virtual physical challenges – Have the team go on a walk at the same time or start fitness challenge as physical activity has been proven to help alleviate depression symptoms.
- Create a team playlist – Music is great for bonding and releases dopamine in the brain, so have everyone on the team submit a song for a group playlist.
Unchecked mental health costs UK employers up to £45 billion each year, and the same research says the ROI of investing in employee mental health is £5 for every £1 spent. The choice is clear; employers should invest in employee wellbeing now more than ever.