Published 24th April 2020
Learn how to manage and cope with anxiety during the COVID-19 pandemic
The coronavirus outbreak means that life has inevitably changed for us all, for the foreseeable future at least and the uncertainty of this may very well cause your employees to feel anxious or stressed about the current situation we all find ourselves in. But it is incredibly important to remember it is completely natural to feel this way and that ultimately, it is okay if they feel this way. It must be remembered that everyone reacts differently to difficult situations.
What can employers do?
Communication is key. Talking to your employees and keeping them up to date on the latest government updates that impact your business in addition to ‘checking in’ with them. It’s a difficult balance with communication in the workplace; some would prefer not to talk about the virus or concerns they have, whilst others might find it helpful to voice their concerns and may gain some reassurance from finding out others are also worried. An employer should try to consider everyone’s concerns and make sure that no-one’s health is being damaged by the virtual conversations taking place on this topic. It is important to encourage your employees to talk things through with you. If they do not feel comfortable doing so, suggest to them to speak with someone they feel more at ease with.
Currently we are all surrounded by uncertainty. Your employees are uncertain about their jobs, you have concerns about your business, future plans and holidays are being rearranged, finances and the future impact on the business going forward etc.
Furthermore, we’re also being subjected to significant periods of loneliness or social isolation than any of us could have guessed we would be. For example, working from home and dealing with isolation is becoming the new normal. As such, it’s so important to remind yourself and your employees that it is normal to feel anxious, it’s okay not to be okay, in fact we would go as far as saying it’s unfortunately inevitable due to how this was thrust upon us. We need to accept this is the new normal and start to adapt to this way of working.
Employers should ensure they have all the usual precautions put in place for those with declining mental health; Mental Health Policies and Mental Health First Aiders/Champions and appropriate professionals should be signposted accordingly.
Employers should be investing in e learning on mental health, resilience, sleep and other areas that impact on their wellbeing. At Thrive we have been developing a Thrive Wellbeing Package which will be launched in May 2020 click hereto register your interest and access the free training for two months as a part of the package have access to manager tool kits and guides on how to have difficult conversations whilst working remotely.
It is important as an employer to remember that nobody knows what is happening behind closed doors and with less face to face time it is even harder to really know how someone is doing as its easier for them to retreat and say they are fine.
In a recent blog by Mindful Employer Leeds they talked about ‘when home isn’t a safe place’. Unfortunately cases of domestic abuse are expected to rise during this time of social distancing and isolation. Employers can play a key role in supporting staff who may be experiencing or at risk of domestic abuse. A service in Leeds for domestic violence and abuse, Behind Closed Doors, have written some guidance to help at this time:
COVID-19 and domestic abuse: Information for Employers
Self-isolation for people in abusive or violent relationships means being trapped indoors with their abuser. The national domestic abuse helpline reported a 65% increase in calls to the helpline on Saturday compared with the same day the previous week. Employers can have an important role to play in response to domestic abuse and can be alert to the increased risks during the lockdown.
Consider your approach to one-to-one meetings during the COVID-19 outbreak. If employees are working at home the abusers may be present so think about using email or another online tool such as slck or teams to support which can be more private.
Ensure that you have support numbers for all types of services available and that they are shared with everyone via email or the intranet – sometimes just seeing a helpline number can be the trigger to get help. Use your company blog or intranet to feature information about domestic abuse. A recent article highlighted the news from home secretary, Priti Patel, that anyone who is at risk of, or experiencing, domestic abuse, is still able to leave and seek refuge.
If an employee or colleague is experiencing domestic violence and abuse, there may be signs you can watch out for:
- Do they appear to be under pressure when on calls and conference calls, are they trying to end them quickly?
- Is someone who performs to a high standard, suddenly struggling at work?
Bear in mind the others factors that might be affecting them, e.g. their children being at home. These indicators may point towards a problem with domestic abuse, but they could also be the result of a different issue.
You should not ask someone questions about their situation or risk unless you are certain it is safe to do so, as this could put them at increased risk.
If you already have a disclosure about domestic abuse from an employee you can ask questions such as, ‘Do you need any help?’ which would be about them not their work. Ask if your employee is able to have a call in private to discuss work and if this is possible, seize the opportunity. If an employer is able to call or privately email (a lot of victims use their work emails when in support, as it is a safe way to contact them) agree a code word if help is needed, e.g. they need the police.
There are lots of ways you as an employer can support those experiencing domestic violence and abuse. If you’d like to find out more about how Behind Closed Doors can help you please contact Behind Closed Doors by email here or call 0113 222 4562.
Wellbeing Risk Assessments
We hear talk of DSE assessments in the workplace but we must also consider conducting wellbeing assessments, our mental health is just as important as our physical health and doing these assessments allows us to check in with staff in a consistent and measured approach across the whole team. All of my team complete this every 3 month and each employee gets a self-care report of how they can improve their own wellbeing (it actually also includes physical and mental health as well as enegery levels and much more!). The assessment we use is completely anonymous meaning the staff are really open and they love getting their personalised report to assist them.
This is so important now people are home working, we completed these when we were in the office but the challenges are different now and if anything it is more important now than it ever was.
As an employer, we get a company report which identifies the main causes of stress, assesses if anyone is suffering with anxiety and depression, but it goes wider to musculoskeletal and immune system too. This allows the business to then focus on where the training and support is required for their team. This will have shifted massively from only 2 months ago so we highly recommend you assess the needs before investing in training so that you target the real needs of your team in an effective manner.
This is Me
Another way employers can really engage their staff when it comes to mental health, with mental health we round the corner they can engage in This is Me.
This is Me, led by the Lord Mayor’s Appeal in London, is a pioneering campaign to reduce stigma and dispel myths around mental health in the workplace. The goal is to improve awareness and understanding of wellbeing in order to create safer and more supportive working environments. Since it’s launch in London on World Mental Health Day 2016 This is Me has grown with teams now in the regions of the North West, West Midlands, Scotland and late 2020 it will launch in Yorkshire, with Jodie Hill, of Thrive Law as the chair for Yorkshire.
There is an appetite for change and the time is right for businesses to collaborate, raise awareness of mental health and wellbeing and reduce stigma in the workplace. In less unusual times, people could share their support and help to #EndTheStigma around mental health by wearing a green ribbon during Mental Health Awareness Week. This is Me have adapted this and in lockdown you could show support by having a virtual green ribbon on your email signature. Wearing the green ribbon or using it in your email signature creates a visible movement of support for ending the stigma. It shows those struggling that there is support and that they are not alone, encouraging each other to share their story to create inclusive workplace cultures.
The This is Me Storytelling campaign asks you/your employees to make a short video talking about their own mental health and about themselves as a person – to dispel myths and reduce the stigma around mental health and crucially to raise awareness of the importance of wellbeing. This could be really effective whilst people are furlough or home working as it’s a consistent messages that all employees can access knowing they are not alone and helping dispel the stigma attached to talking about mental ill health in many workplaces.
You can find out more about This is Me here.
This is Me launches in Yorkshire on 23 October 2020.Tickets for the launch event are free, if you or your organisation would like to know more please email Jodie Hill.
We hope this has given you some insight into ways in which you can support your team at this very strange and difficult time.
DO NOT FORGET about those homeworking or on furlough as you will need to think about integrating them back to work at some point later this year so put the effort in now to make a difference when they return.
Written by the Thrive Tribe