How to look after employee mental health during the pandemic

Covid-19 | Covid-19 Advice | Employment & Skills | How To

UK teams have been encouraged by the government to work from home where possible, with most offices completely closed. These decisions were followed by employers, taken to protect the health of staff and their families, however what about their mental health?

This is a big change for a lot of people who need the routine and social aspects work brings. With the current pandemic that the world is facing, there is a lot of uncertainty and anxiety.

Sarah Kauter is the MD at VerriBerri, who has always encouraged staff to have open conversations about mental health and tried to support them in the workplace as much as possible. She has shared her top tips on how to look after your employee’s mental health during this difficult time.

Support team morale

Just because you’re not currently all in the office together doesn’t mean you’re not a team still. All successful businesses rely on their staff working together as one big oiled machine. We have a group WhatsApp chat for the whole team to communicate, sending memes and updates. This ensures we are all still in touch as staying in high spirits. You could even arrange a virtual team building exercise, like a quiz or games evening. This will keep your employees in high spirits as well as keeping everyone working together.

Check in regularly

Being in isolation doesn’t mean that you should feel isolated. The beauty of living in the digital age means we are always connected and never have to feel alone. Whether it’s you or a designated member of the SMT, use this as an opportunity to check in with everyone at least once every couple of days to ask how they are doing. This ensures that if anyone is particularly struggling with the situation, you can check in and make sure they’re okay.

Set a routine

There’s not a lot of certainty or normality in our days at the moment. Something that really helps to boost mental health and relieve anxiety is to have a structure in place. For example, at VerriBerri we have a Zoom call every morning at 9 o’clock and have kept our lunch hour to the same time every day. This helps give people some kind of routine to stick to. It’s also vital that you encourage staff to get dressed every day. This doesn’t need to be office attire necessarily but changing out of pyjamas will help people to stay motivated and differ between working hours and down time.

Be flexible

This is a challenging time for every business, with a lot of financial worries and changes in the industry. This is when you need your team to be on their A-game, however, this may not always be possible. It’s natural that people will have off days at the moment or not be on the ball, everyone is adjusting. It’s important that you are patient with staff and give them a bit of lenience. For example, as the schools are shut, many workers are having to juggle full time work with childcare and home schooling. You may need to accommodate extra time for tasks or a change in working hours where possible.

Give clarity

No one knows how long the restrictions will be in place, or how long they’ll be working from home for. Businesses are in danger and there is a constant worry of clients pulling out or cutting budgets. Your staff will be feeling this pressure and uncertainty. However, transparency is key in this situation. Let your staff know where they stand in terms of their rights as an employee with things like sick pay or annual leave. Your HR department should be keeping up to date with legislation so letting people know where they stand will provide some clarity in this confusing time.

Be open

You will always have a lot of pressure on your shoulders as a business owner, but these are particularly stressful and worrying times. You need to make sure this stress does not filter from the top down, into the workforce. To prevent this, looking after your own mental health is vital. Your staff will be looking to you as their leader to help them through this. When you’re checking in, be open about your own feelings. If you’re having a bad day or feeling a bit stressed share some thoughts with your employees. They will respect you for your honestly and also see that they can share with you too.

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