Once again the country finds itself in lockdown and thoughts, as they have been for much of the 11 months, turn to the mental health of frontline healthcare and care home workers, key industry workers as well as furloughed staff. Many have faced, and continue to face, a slew of different mental health issues related to the coronavirus pandemic.
The 4 February is Time to Talk day:
The Power of Small
A small conversation about mental health has the power to make a big difference.
We know that the more conversations we have, the more myths we can bust and barriers we can break down, helping to end the isolation, shame and worthlessness that too many of us with mental health problems are made to feel.
Time to Talk Day is the day that we get the nation talking about mental health. This year’s event might look a little different, but at times like this open conversations about mental health are more important than ever.
We need your help to start the conversation this Time to Talk Day – together we can end mental health stigma.
Credit and find out more: https://www.time-to-change.org.uk/get-involved/time-talk-day
Tackling Mental Health head on.
While it is not surprising that frontline healthcare and care home workers have been identified as being at risk of post-traumatic stress disorder, amongst other mental health conditions, it is also not surprising that the impact of the coronavirus outbreak has rippled to all sectors of society.
From experiencing mild anxiety to full-blown depression or feelings of helplessness caused by isolation, neither those who have continued working or those furloughed at home are immune from experiencing mental health issues.
Duty of care
All employers have a duty of care to their employees and must take all necessary precautions to ensure their mental wellbeing. The Health and Safety at Work Act 1992 requires employers to assess mental health work-related issues to measure the levels of risk to their employees.
So, what are some of the things that employers might consider?
Working from home
Those working from home may feel very isolated. It is likely that they will be carrying out work and making decisions that are usually discussed or shared. When they come across problems, there is no-one there to share them. These pressures, alongside their concerns surrounding coronavirus not to mention perhaps home-schooling burdens, may lead to feelings of stress, helplessness, anxiety and depression.
It is important for employers to recognise this potential and to think about establishing measures to overcome or lessen the impact of the situation. This could be regular online team meetings or a regular call from their manager to share any burdens.
Back to working on site
While many scrap yards continued to operate, the majority of sites will have furloughed a number of staff, if not a significant number. Some workers may well have become used to being in what they perceive is a safer environment with restricted contact with others outside their own home. While they too may be affected by the same issues as those working from home, they may also feel anxiety about coming back to work in a more complex environment.
Employers need to tackle these anxieties by making sure workers feel confident about coming back to work. Having a robust back-to-work plan and COVID-19 risk assessment, which they hopefully have been consulted on, should help reduce anxiety levels.
From a health and safety perspective, it is also important to ensure that, if an employee is operating equipment or plant, for example, they are in the right place mentally to remain focused on the task.
It’s good to talk
Ensuring people have a way to share and/or vent their concerns, worries and feelings is a very important tool in tackling mental health issues.
With this in mind, companies should consider identifying a mental health champion who can lead on mental health issues in the workplace and to ensure they are appropriately addressed. Alternatively, employers can set up a mental health support group or a buddy system to encourage employees to share their concerns in a less formal way. All these options provide a point of contact for those who are having troubles to approach in the first instance.
At the same time, employers may want to consider asking employees to complete online mental health modules. These can be found at range of places including Mental Health at Work and ACAS. Many of these online portals offer certificates of completion to encourage people to complete the modules, which have been developed with everyone in mind.
Ensuring that the workplace is a safe place for staff to be open about any mental health struggles is more important now than ever as the country, indeed the world, continues to navigate its way through the coronavirus pandemic fallout.