26 Mar Supporting Staff Mental Health During Covid-19
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‘These are unprecedented times’ – words which have been echoed time and time again across the country over the past few weeks. And with unprecedented times comes unprecedented measures – the newest measure put into place has meant that most of the country is now working from home. As an employer there may be many concerns about managing this feat – how to keep track of work output or providing the technology needed for remote working. One area which may not be on the top of your radar, but definitely should be, is supporting and encouraging your employees to be mindful of their mental health and resilience whilst working from home, especially during these uncertain times.
Why do it?
Fortunately, mental health awareness has been trending throughout the media and news outlets for a few years now, and on some level is no longer seen as a taboo subject. Nevertheless, there are still certain fears perpetuated in the workplace – for example, the fear of being perceived as incapable if you need to take some time off work due to personal issues, or even burnout. There also seems to be a widely held belief that to progress through the ranks, you need to be able to take on more and more work, with little to no room for errors, meet tight deadlines and be available for emergencies even during non-working hours. Or to put it more frankly – non-working hours…what is that exactly? It’s safe to say that working in this way over a prolonged period of time is enough to wear anyone down and employers will eventually be worse off when their capacity is greatly reduced due to staff going off-sick or just as bad, producing lower quality outputs simply because internal resources remain depleted. Looking after the well being of your employees is to everyone’s benefit.
How to do this when working remotely
It’s important to bear in mind that these are difficult times for us all. Each one of us has been thrown into unfamiliar territory, with the landscape and parameters changing every day. With that being said, although there is still work to be done – life must go on (for our sake and others), it’s worth reminding ourselves that things won’t go smoothly; there will be moments of frustration and quite simply; there may be the eventuality that some work will have to be halted. And that is ok.
So here are some tips that you can share with your employees on how to promote their mental wellbeing:
1 ) Have clear start and end times
It’s typical for productivity to increase when working at home. This can be a result of having less distractions but can also be due to feeling the pressure of proving that you’re not skiving or just not knowing when to stop. But stop you must, and this is one simple way in which you can stop over-working.
2 ) Encourage having a structure to the working day
This could range from scheduling meetings or conference calls, to blocking out time for admin, or slots for responding to emails. Knowing that there is an allotted time for certain activities can help to reduce that overwhelming feeling when there is so much to do yet no obvious place to start
3 ) Take breaks!
So simple yet so effective. Ensuring that breaks are restful, and are indeed a break away from work, can help to re-energise, refocus and gain new perspectives. If possible, breaks outside can help with alleviating mood, or brief mindfulness exercises can encourage a reconnection of the mind and body.
4 ) Schedule video calls
For some people, working in isolation is not their idea of fun and can be depleting rather than energising. Thankfully with the aid of technology, we can now virtually be in the same room, without being in the same room. Schedule in regular check-in’s where you can meet and see how your team are getting on. Better still, perhaps you can organise a lunch meeting where you all share lunch and just have a chat about non work-related topics.
5 ) Have realistic expectations
Children at home, other caring responsibilities, lack of workspace, illness. These are all reasons why work may not go as smoothly in the coming weeks and expecting staff to produce the same turn-around is impractical and stress-inducing for everyone. This is not to say that attitudes and standards should drop but communicating that you are aware of the difficulties that may arise and are willing to support where necessary will go a long way in fostering trust and openness within your working relationships.
The final tip would be to recognise that you too are not exempt from having to maintain a sense of wellbeing. Stress and anxiety if not managed at the top, will eventually filter down to the rest of the team. By topping up your resources you will be much better placed to care for and lead your team. Lastly, remember to have self-compassion, try to have as much restful sleep as you can, exercise daily, eat well and don’t forget to spend (screen) time with friends and family. You will get through this, and on the other side, you should hopefully have a healthy, refreshed and well-valued team.
About the Author:
Dr Victoria Uwannah is a Chartered Counselling Psychologist working in private practice and the corporate sector. You can find her on Instagram @itsdrvicki where she aims to open up the world of psychology and therapy in a relatable and easy to understand way.
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