Advertisement - Content continues below
Employment

How to get mental health support at work as restrictions lift

“The pandemic has caused significant and sudden changes to our lives, including the way we work. As lockdown eases, employees will once again need to adapt quickly, presenting challenges to our mental health.”

If your mental health has taken a hit as Covid restrictions end, you’re not alone.

More than half of people were feeling worried about seeing and being near other people ahead of lockdown rules being fully relaxed on so-called ‘Freedom Day’ on July 19, according to research carried out by mental health charity Mind.

And 46 per cent of those who had been vaccinated were still worried they would catch coronavirus, the survey of nearly 10,000 people in England found.

The pandemic has also meant one in four adults and more than one in six young people have experienced mental distress for the first time, while NHS figures reveal the number of people in contact with mental health services is the highest since the first lockdown.

While some people will continue to work from home for the foreseeable future, many businesses have adopted a hybrid model, which means some employees may be facing returning to the office for the first time since the March 2020 lockdown.

Emma Mamo, head of workplace wellbeing at Mind, said: “The pandemic has caused significant and sudden changes to our lives, including the way we work. As lockdown eases, employees will once again need to adapt quickly, presenting challenges to our mental health.”

Advertisement - Content continues below
Advertisement - Content continues below

What workplaces can do to support employees

There are plenty of “small, inexpensive adjustments,” according to Mamo.

People returning to the office may be facing commuting on busier public transport and also being close to people who have chosen not to wear masks, which may cause anxiety. One way workplaces can support their staff is offering flexible working hours to allow staff to avoid a busy commute. Mind also suggests subsidised exercise classes and generous holiday allowances “can make a huge difference to employees.”

Mamo recommends using Mind’s Wellness Action Plans, available for free online. She said: “Drawn up with your manager, these tailored plans can allow you to identify your individual triggers for stress and poor mental health and outline what can help prevent or alleviate symptoms .”

How to talk about your mental health at work

“You don’t need to be an expert to talk about mental health, but organisations need to make sure employees feel they have the skills and knowledge they need to be able to identify and support colleagues when they are experiencing a problem, particularly for those working remotely, where it can be harder to communicate and spot signs,” said Mamo. 

Training courses such as Mental Health First Aid or those available from Mind can provide employers and employees with a better understanding and awareness.

Mamo added: “Because our physical and mental health go hand in hand, we would like to see training given the same priority as physical first aid within workplaces, so that staff know what to do if a colleague is experiencing mental health problems, or a mental health crisis.”

How to talk to your colleagues about their mental health

If you’re worried about a colleague, ask them how they’re doing, listen non-judgmentally, be supportive and signpost to support both internally and externally. 

Mamo said: “Try to avoid making assumptions about your colleague’s mental health and how it might impact on their work. People with mental health problems can and do make a valuable contribution to the workplace, but some may need some extra support.”

The benefits of prioritising employee wellbeing

According to Mind, organisations that prioritise employee wellbeing have workers who are more productive, loyal, and less likely to take time off sick. 

“With poor mental health rife across the nation, supporting staff wellbeing has never been a greater priority for employers,” said Mamo

The legal requirements of supporting mental health at work

Under the Equality Act 2010, employees who disclose they experience a disability, including mental health problems that have substantial effects on your day-to-day activities, are legally entitled to reasonable adjustments.

These could include more regular catch-ups with managers, change of workspace, working hours, or breaks.

Mamo said: “We want employers to create an environment where staff feel able to talk openly about stress and poor mental health at work, including any issues they’re facing – whether personal, professional or a combination.”

How to talk to your boss about your mental health 

It can feel challenging to open up to your boss for the first time. 

Ideally, your manager or supervisor would create a space for you to talk about any issues you’re facing – personal or professional – by regularly checking in with staff or by including a ‘temperature check’ in meetings to examine the current measures in place to support mental wellbeing.

If your manager doesn’t create the space for you to be able to talk about wellbeing, it can be more difficult to start this dialogue. It depends on the relationship you have with your manager, but if you have a good relationship and trust them, you could meet them one to one to discuss what’s going on. Having someone from HR present will make the meeting more formal, and normally wouldn’t be necessary in the first instance. But if you didn’t get anywhere with the first meeting then it might be a sensible next step.

If you’re thinking of speaking to your boss for the first time, also think about where you want the meeting to take place

If you don’t get anywhere with your managers and HR team, or if you are treated differently, demoted or even lose your job because of disclosing a mental health problem, seek advice from Acas or Mind’s legal line – 0300 466 6463 (lines open Mon-Fri, 9am-6pm or email legal@mind.org.uk.).

For information and support on staying mentally healthy at this time, visit www.mind.org.uk/coronavirus.

For free resources for employers to help improve mental wellbeing, visit www.mind.org.uk/work.

Get career tips and advice from our Jobs and Training series:

Advertisement - Content continues below

Support The Big Issue and our vendors this Christmas

Every time you buy a copy of The Big Issue, subscribe or donate, you are helping our vendors to work their way out of poverty by providing 'a hand up not a hand out.' You’re helping Big Issue vendors achieve their #BigWish

Recommended for you

Read All
This pioneering project defied national reoffending rates - by giving young people a job
Employment

This pioneering project defied national reoffending rates - by giving young people a job

MPs launch inquiry into NHS staffing crisis
Employment

MPs launch inquiry into NHS staffing crisis

What is the 4 day working week and why are UK campaigners calling for it?
Four day week

What is the 4 day working week and why are UK campaigners calling for it?

This chart shows the real cost of beer over the last 20 years
Cost of Living

This chart shows the real cost of beer over the last 20 years

Most Popular

Read All
Video showing Boris Johnson repeatedly 'lying' to parliament hits 40 million views
1.

Video showing Boris Johnson repeatedly 'lying' to parliament hits 40 million views

Legacy benefits freeze left disabled people living on ‘historically’ low payments, court hears
2.

Legacy benefits freeze left disabled people living on ‘historically’ low payments, court hears

'Noel Gallagher was mega hungover and Will.i.am kept walking off' - The stories behind Big Issue photoshoots
3.

'Noel Gallagher was mega hungover and Will.i.am kept walking off' - The stories behind Big Issue photoshoots

Plans to remove British citizenship without notice 'would repeat Windrush mistakes'
4.

Plans to remove British citizenship without notice 'would repeat Windrush mistakes'