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Edward Manson

April is Stress Awareness Month and never has its timing and relevance since it started in 1992 been more apt given the current circumstances surrounding Coronavirus.

As working from home, self-isolation and social distancing fast become everyday terms, millions of people across the UK will inevitably experience varying levels of stress over this period.

This could manifest in the form of stress related to working from home, homeschooling children, managing finances or juggling all of the above at once.

This only looks set to continue as we anticipate a Government announcement in the coming days that the lockdown will be extended for several more weeks.

In the meantime, Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, has expressed fears that aside from the economic fallout, COVID-19 will have a detrimental impact on mental health and families when unemployment soars and businesses start to fold.

This comes following speculation that the Coronavirus crisis could last until spring 2021 and result in up to 7.9 million people being hospitalised, according to Public Health England.

This is why it has never been so important to dedicate this April in particular to increasing public awareness about the modern stress epidemic and how to tackle it during such an unprecedented and challenging era.

It is therefore vital to review the impact of stress in the workplace in recent times, so that we can try to begin to understand how to manage it moving forward.

The Mental Health Foundation recently reported that almost three-quarters (74 percent) of people have felt so stressed they have been overwhelmed or unable to cope at work. Meanwhile, further evidence suggests that 12 percent of all sickness absence days in the UK can be attributed to mental health conditions.

The HSE’s Labour Force Survey revealed that 602,000 people were affected by work-related stress, anxiety and depression in Great Britain in 2019 and that 12.8 million working days were lost as a result.

Left unchecked, stress can result in serious health implications on both a mental and physical level, including insomnia, heart disease, high blood pressure and obesity.

Rethink Mental Illness, the organisation behind Stress Awareness Month, has guidance around the necessary steps to take in order to reduce stress.

This includes a dedicated COVID-19 hub which includes advice for people affected by mental illness, FAQs, temporary changes to the Mental Health Act and tips on managing anxiety during the outbreak.

In addition, both the World Health Organisation and Mental Health Foundation have released advice on how people can protect their own mental health during the virus outbreak, stressing the need for people to turn to the NHS for the most up-to-date information.

While good mental health is, of course, essential for workers, it also promotes increased productivity, uniting towards a common goal, a better reputation and a healthier bottom line, which is all crucial to work towards maintaining in the current climate.

Improved wellbeing at work also results in more effective communications, increased clarity in decision making, a move towards creative problem solving and keeping mistakes to a minimum. This ultimately means that everyone stands to gain from a working ethos which pays heed to mental health issues.

Given that work makes up such a huge part of our lives, we want to encourage thriving and engaged workforces, by giving people the tools to manage stress.

Implementing such steps can help to achieve a positive culture across businesses, while understanding and proactively supporting colleagues who are struggling, be it from stress, anxiety or depression. Doing so can help to normalise the subject, take away the stigma and encourage staff to talk more openly about their mental health.

Our tips will help you to support your employees and achieve a positive attitude during these uncertain times.

  • Arrange regular check-ins via video conferencing technology such as Zoom, Skype or House Party so that you can see your team face-to-face. This is ideal for alleviating loneliness while ensuring everyone is up-to-date with your latest business developments.
  • Administer wellbeing surveys frequently to gauge how your employees are feeling and identify shifts in attitude. This will help benchmark current feelings and attitudes to work, as well as highlighting red flags and areas that require more attention and support.
  • Update the entire company with communications on the situation and allow for real-time employee feedback.
  • Offer remote training for any new working from home technology or software requirements.
  • Provide weekly Government and NHS guidance on key topics like self-care and staying safe.
  • Tell the workforce what the company is doing, how you are doing it and what is likely to happen next. Help them feel confident that every scenario has been accounted for.
  • Create a mental health toolkit with accompanying literature and arrange a call to help your employees get to know the techniques, tools and coping mechanisms.
  • Encourage your staff to take regular screen breaks, exercise, eat well and to finish work at a certain time without the expectation to check emails well into the evening.

By proving a commitment to taking mental health disorders such as anxiety, stress and depression seriously, you will encourage respect and improve trust from your employees both now and well into the future.

If you would like to speak to our team about the current climate and your recruitment requirements, please contact info@merje.com