How has COVID-19 mentally affected your workforce?

Covid-19 News | Employment & Skills | Surveys

Over half of UK businesses believe that Covid-19 will have a negative impact on business performance in the next year as a result of the pandemic’s effect on employee mental health, a report released today from Unmind and the Reward & Employee Benefits Association (REBA) has found.

As the UK enters its eighth week of lockdown, the vast majority of British employees continue to work from home with almost a quarter remaining on furlough. Conversations around economic and social uncertainty have been at the forefront of the business agenda, and the long term effects of the pandemic are starting to come into focus, among them is its impact on employee mental health.

The report, which coincides with Mental Health Awareness Week, reveals a spike in the need for mental health support, with almost 79% of businesses experiencing a rise in requests for provisions in this area since the outbreak.

In line with the surge in requests for support, over 87% of organisations state that conversations about mental health have increased amongst employees in the wake of the pandemic, demonstrating a shift towards a more open conversation around a traditionally stigmatised subject.

Businesses are responding positively to the needs of their employees. More than 91% reported that they have increased their emphasis on the importance of employee mental health, and over 70% will be increasing their investment into mental health support over the next 12 months. The requirement to work from home during lockdown and the predicted shift in working styles long-term has also resulted in 60% of these organisations committing to increasing investment in digital mental wellbeing platforms and apps.

In addition to this, the report shows that conversations around mental health have increased dramatically across the board – with 88% of companies reporting that discussions around employee mental health had increased at senior management level, and almost 80% at board level. Going forward, 88% of organisations believe that mental health support will receive greater backing from their board and senior management teams as a result of Covid-19.

Covid-19 is taking a heavy toll too on the economy, with Chancellor Rishi Sunak stating that a significant recession is very likely, as the UK’s economy shrinks at its quickest pace since the financial crisis. With a significant proportion of the UK workforce on furlough and many businesses struggling to survive the lockdown, any return to work will take place in a period of intense economic uncertainty. Poor mental health as a result of the pandemic will only intensify this effect on businesses, reducing productivity and preventing businesses from bouncing back as quickly as possible. It’s positive to see that businesses are recognising this now and taking positive and proactive steps to help their employees’ mental health throughout this time, and beyond.

The report surveyed 151 British companies from across the private, public and not-for-profit sectors. This included organisations such as BT, Centrica, Shell International, John Lewis & Partners, Marks and Spencer and TSB. Of the companies surveyed, 73% had over 500 employees. In total, the businesses that responded to the survey represent more than half a million employees.

Dr Nick Taylor, CEO and Co-Founder of Unmind and Clinical Psychologist, comments: “Covid-19 has had a profound impact on British businesses. The long term impact the pandemic has on mental wellbeing depends on how we preempt and prepare for it now. And as the findings demonstrate, recent events have triggered a positive shift in how we approach and look after our mental wellbeing.

“Our mental health is impacted and determined by many different factors, from physical fitness and sleep to friendship networks and self-esteem. These areas are all connected, and the virus has impacted each in some way. In order to lead a mentally healthy life, we must think of ourselves as the sum of these parts, and consider how we can look after each.

“In order to future-proof our organisations against a second wave of challenges through employee mental ill-health after lockdown, we must take proactive, positive action now. That’s why it’s so important that businesses respond to this shift and use it as an opportunity to propel their mental health strategies forward to meet the needs and expectations of their people.”

Debi O’Donovan, Director, Reward & Employee Benefits Association (REBA): “The results of this report demonstrate that over half of companies believe that the mental health impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic will have a negative impact on business. We also see the increasing conversation around mental health by senior managers and board directors, something which is crucial while we experience one of the greatest challenges to mental health we will likely ever see.

“In such an uncertain climate, it’s good to see that organisations are prepared to take steps to support their employees and tackle the negative mental health effects of the pandemic. They also need to focus on the specific mental health and resilience needs of senior managers and those leading teams and organisations in this crisis. This is an opportunity for businesses to get to grips with how to support employee mental health and best prepare their businesses for the return to work after the lockdown.”

Liz Ashford, Director of HR at TSB, comments: “As a result of Covid-19 TSB is even more conscious of the need to support every employee, wherever they are working and at whatever time. Unmind’s platform is a hugely informative and easy to use tool and it has helped us provide support to our employees throughout the impact of the Pandemic.

“As we learn to navigate this new world, we believe looking after our employees’ mental health and tackling the mental health implications of Covid-19 is central to our business success and the return to normality.”

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