Covid-19 and mental health at work
It’s natural as a human being that we experience both good and bad days, but when the bad days become more frequent than the good days, and then in fact, the bad days become so constant that you can barely remember good days and feel no longer able to go to work, what happens next?
That’s the experience of many people; regardless of their class, age, gender or race.
So, what can we do? Whether we consider ourselves to be in good or poor mental health, we should all take time to look after ourselves. In practice this can mean keeping hydrated and eating well, taking proper or short and frequent breaks from work, going out for a walk, confiding in a supportive friend, taking some annual leave from work, watching that movie, and so on.
We should also be kind to one another. At work, this can translate to being considerate, supportive and patient towards colleagues. Not easy when plates are spinning, and the workload is piling. But can it make a difference? Yes, it can.
For employers, when dealing with workers with mental health problems, this can mean taking greater account of an individual’s needs; either whilst they are at work or when planning their return to work following a bout of poor health or furlough. Supervisors and managers are key in creating a safe and supportive culture, for example, by showing an honest interest in their team member’s personal situation and allowing a slow and controlled increase of workload.
So, what are some of the things an organisation can do? It may seem obvious but here are three steps:
· Create a safe, welcoming and stigma-free work environment. Positive culture starts with leadership messages from senior management that are reinforced throughout the management
· Be vigilant for any signs that staff may be struggling and act if they are. Effective action may prevent them from going off sick to begin with and timely interventions can prevent more severe mental health problems and long return to work trajectories.
· Take a personalised approach with workers returning to work, for example, stay in regular contact while they are away and adjust return to work support to suit each individual worker.
Let’s continue to remember that just like physical health, having good mental health should be an ongoing priority.
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