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Lifting the lockdown on mental health

By Simon Winfield, Managing Director, Hays UK & Ireland

In these unusual times, isolation and uncertainty can cause anxiety and stress – and this can be even harder on those who are already struggling with their mental health.

Knowing how important it is, we recently carried out a survey of over 16,200 UK professionals. Our findings showed that since lockdown was enforced wellbeing has fallen. Close to two thirds (61%) rated their wellbeing as positive before these restrictions were put in place – but only 35% said it was still positive since lockdown.

There is a myriad of reasons for this drop. Most commonly, it is attributed to the lack of social interaction (26%), isolation and loneliness (13%) and boredom (11%). Juggling childcare with work is a factor for 10% of respondents, as is an increase in workload. Many also say that their work-support network has changed, and they are now more distant with colleagues and leadership.

We all need to consider how maintaining good mental health and wellbeing can be achieved and how – wherever you are working from – you are creating and contributing to a mentally healthy workplace. With that in mind, here are some things we can do to help ourselves and our teams cope with the challenging times we now find ourselves in.

Employers should ramp up communications and encourage better work-life balance

  • Effective, honest and regular communication should be the bedrock of your Covid-19 pandemic response, not matter what stage of lockdown we are in. Make sure you update your workforce regularly on any upcoming plans to alleviate stress caused by uncertainty.
  • Managers may think they know how their teams are coping, but the truth is that everyone’s experience of the pandemic and resultant lockdown has been different. You should seek to assess the impact the crisis has had on staff wellbeing either by short surveys or for with less formal one-to-one interviews. Show that you are listening.
  • Be frank and transparent in discussions and find out what is most affecting your teams’ wellbeing. Foster an open and trustworthy culture that allows your staff to be honest in their feedback. This will better allow you to tailor your response and offer wellbeing training, counselling or extra support where needed.
  • While Covid-19 and the uncertainty and anxiety continue, bolster your employee support networks. Give your staff the opportunity for more conversations with leadership, schedule more social events over video calls to instil comradery and let them know they are being heard by key decision makers.

Employees should take advantage of what’s on offer and support their colleagues

  • Be aware of your own wellbeing and accept help when it’s offered. If your employer offers wellbeing training, make time to take advantage of this. Or, they might have mental health first aiders or counselling services that you can access to help. Look into what resources are available to you.
  • Make sure you’re maintaining a good work-life balance. Set clear boundaries between work time and leisure time to avoid burnout. Exercise is important to me, so I always make sure I find the time to get out on my bike or go for a run.
  • Communicate more. Is your employer aware of your current situation and the challenges impacting your wellbeing? Do you have any concerns about transitioning back to work? These are all things you should raise with your manager to help them support your wellbeing.
  • Offer support to others. Having a support network between colleagues is vital. Stay social, maintain the relationships you had at the workplace and let your teammates know you’re there to help if they need. Asking how somebody is before you address work matters is a simple way of checking in with your colleagues.

Whether managing a team or looking for ways to improve your own mental health and wellbeing, we should all be mindful that there will be further changes ahead, and colleagues who will need our support. If we keep our focus on doing the right thing and are open and honest about what we’re doing, we’ll be better placed to support our own mental health and that of others.

Request a copy of our new Wellbeing Matters report here.

About this author

Simon joined Hays in 2006, having commenced his recruitment career in 1993. Initially responsible for our businesses in Western Australia and Northern Territory, Simon relocated to the UK in 2014 where he was responsible for our operations in the West & Wales and Ireland, before being appointed Managing Director of the UK & Ireland business in 2018.

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