What the 'New Normal' Means for Mental Health in the Workplace and How to Support Your Employees

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Sarah-Jane McQueenGeneral Manager of CoursesOnline

Monday, February 8, 2021

Mental health in the workplace has always been a top priority. Previous research found that 45% of workers battling mental health issues hadn’t told their employer. Many of these individuals cited a fear of shame and discrimination as their reason for not doing so. As an employer or HR professional, you have a fundamental duty to tackle this problem head-on and provide support to any individuals who need it within your company.

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What the 'New Normal' Means for Mental Health in the Workplace and How to Support Your Employees

Of course, the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the working world in a multitude of ways. As employees attempt to adapt to the so-called ‘new normal’ and working from home, supporting their mental health and wellness has never been more important. This article will take a look at how the pandemic has transformed mental health in the workplace, while also covering some initiatives that can protect your staff’s health.

The impact of COVID-19 on mental health

Since the outbreak began, there’s been a shift in our everyday lives. For many workers, that’s meant staying at home in recent months and navigating the world of remote work. While working from home has some benefits , for example allowing staff members to cut out their daily commute, it can lead to social isolation and mental health issues.

Additionally, COVID-19 has meant that many individuals fear for their job security. According to the BBC, the outbreak led to economic upheaval with the UK unemployment rate jumping from 3.8% in 2019 to 5.4% in 2020. In the US, it went from 3.5% in February 2020 to 6.9% by October of the same year. The changes within the economic sector have meant that many employees are worried about keeping their roles. In turn, this worry adds a level of stress that can result in further mental health problems for workers.

Increased focus on mental health in the workplace

Supporting staff members when they’re facing mental health problems is crucial. One of the most important things to realize is the idea that mental health issues within the workforce can have a greater impact on the business as a whole. Put simply, it can affect your bottom line. Failing to give individuals adequate help and resources could lead to:

  • Increased number of sick days
  • Lower levels of productivity
  • Low rates of staff retention

New research suggests that 66% of workers agree that mental health will benefit from greater time and resources in the long term after COVID-19. It’s true that there’s been an increased focus on mental health in the workplace since the pandemic began. Many employers are aware of the ramifications poor mental health practices can have on their team members. Despite this fact, 40% of workforces are still yet to implement a mental health initiative or strategy to combat the impact of COVID-19.

Furthermore, of the workplaces that have made moves in the right direction, the question of how permanent these changes will be is pertinent. 34% of people within organizations believe that there won’t be a long-term increased focus on mental health as a result of COVID-19. That’s a worrying statistic and needs to change.

Implementing mental health initiatives in your workplace

So what’s the solution? As an employer or HR professional, there are plenty of ways you can support your staff members’ mental wellness. Introducing initiatives and continuing to adhere to them after the pandemic is over is the key to your business success. Ensuring that you have a solid mental health advocacy strategy in place is a good starting point. When it comes to creating an action plan that works for you, you may want to include:

Mental health drop-in sessions

Finding the time to speak openly about mental health can be tough. Schedule a bi-weekly session between HR and the team. Ensure that all staff members know about this window and how to reach you. It may be via Skype, Zoom or in person when normality resumes. Give staff members the chance to air out any concerns.

Offer health and fitness perks

Staying mentally and physically healthy go hand-in-hand. With many staff members working from home, it’s difficult for them to keep fit. Increase your perks scheme to include fitness benefits. For example, you may want to offer a free virtual fitness membership, start a step-count challenge among your staff or provide discounted gym membership.

Increased mental health awareness

For some, mental health is still a taboo subject. This needs addressing. Increasing your focus on mental health in the workplace is the first step. That means running in-house campaigns and schemes that directly talk about this issue. For example, you may want to host a charity event for a mental health organization or create resources for a national day.

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Sarah-Jane McQueen

General Manager of CoursesOnline

https://www.coursesonline.co.uk/

Sarah-Jane McQueen is the General Manager of CoursesOnline. She is passionate about helping individuals and organisations acquire and develop the skills which they need to succeed.

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