British Gas business blog

Supporting employees with their mental health

Laptop on table with shot of an on videocall - Mental health & supporting employees

The impact of COVID-19 on mental health at work

The uncertainty and fear caused by COVID-19 can have a severe impact on the mental health of your employees. People may be fearful over the risk of infection they feel for themselves and their loved ones. Many employees are having to work from home with the difficulty of juggling home-schooling responsibilities and work for working parents, whilst others face income, job loss, or worry on how their business can continue to survive in these challenging circumstances.

How mental health issues impact a business

The impact of mental health issues on employee well-being is significant. It is a major cause of long-term absence from work in the UK with research from Mind highlighting that more than one in five (21%) employees had called in sick to avoid work when asked how workplace stress had affected them [1]. Furthermore, a Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development study emphasised the effect it can have on businesses. It found that [2]:

There is clear evidence for organisations to encourage good physical and mental health for all staff, as actively promoting employee well-being has a knock-on effect of greater productivity, morale, reduced sickness absence and ultimately retention. There’s lots of reasons why exercise is good for your body – having a healthy heart and improving your joints and bones are just two. But physical activity is also beneficial to how we are feeling mentally.

Supporting employees’ mental health at work

There are many things small businesses can do to support employees’ mental health. Read our top 3 tips below.

1. Create an open culture

It is common for employees to often feel scared to discuss how they’re feeling mentally with their manager. This can cause problems to spiral and result in having to take time off work. By signalling to employees that their mental well being matters and opening a conversation about it will lead to mental health being a normal conversation.

To demonstrate how your company is committed to supporting mental health, you should devise a clear strategy and policies to help employees who may be struggling to get the support they need.

2. Spotting early signs

Early intervention can have a significant impact in preventing mental health issues from escalating. For employers and managers, you can support by being alert to the early signs and know how to respond and signpost support services. Bupa and Mind provide information on how to spot potential signs, but some of these could include:

To help identify the potential signs of mental ill health in your workplace, set up a team-building exercise focused on mental health and ask employees to share their ideas about how they’re feeling when things are difficult. This will encourage an open discussion and enable employers and managers to identify when team members might be struggling.

3. Staying connected

At times of stress, employees work better together and with support. For many people, co-workers are their main source of daily human interaction, but the disruption of COVID-19 has meant it’s increasingly difficult to chat with colleagues whilst on a tea run, socialising on the walk between meetings, or chatting with your colleagues on factory or shop floors. To navigate a new way of connecting with colleagues, employers and managers should dedicate time during the work day that enables employees to connect, share their thoughts and how they’re feeling, and provide a sounding board to provide support during the pandemic.

To stay connected, you could host virtual coffee breaks for those working from home, or to help each other stay relaxed and healthy, organise a virtual yoga session. You could encourage friendly competition with a weekly quiz either virtually or in the workplace depending on your circumstances. For those who are still in the workplace, it’s important to continue to encourage colleagues to connect but ensuring you follow social distancing.  

Closing thoughts

It’s only natural that your employees will be feeling concerned about the coronavirus outbreak. The focus will often be on physical health, but it’s important to remember people could be suffering mentally too. Ask your staff how they’re managing. Don’t be afraid to ask again if you’re worried they’re not sharing the full picture. You don’t need to be a mental well being expert to be there for someone.



Related blog posts:
Creating a Mental Health Friendly Workplace
How exercise can benefit mental health

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