Mental Health Awareness Week: How to create a more supportive and safer workplace

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Mental Health Awareness Week (18-24 May 2020) is a campaign to raise awareness and promote good mental health for all.

This year’s theme of ‘kindness’ feels particularly topical due to the current struggles in light of the pandemic. This blog explores the measures businesses can take to support staff through this challenging time.

Maintaining the workplace

Following the government’s recent update, businesses in specific sectors are encouraged to transition back to the workplace. Particularly manufacturing and construction workers, many of whom stayed home throughout the lockdown.

Understandably, this creates a level of concern for those affected. To reduce this, you should implement the following measures:

  • Carry out a COVID-19 risk assessment
  • Follow cleaning and hygiene guidelines
  • Implement social distancing
  • If two metres apart isn’t possible, take steps to manage risk
  • Invest in health & safety equipment, such as protective screens, sanitising stations and thermal sensors

Similarly, you must also ensure that staff working remotely have the equipment needed to fulfil their role, including PCs or laptops, the correct desk equipment, or even suitable internet access.

Keep communication channels open

Your team are processing the same fears as you and now more than ever, will benefit from leadership where they feel included and valued. Maintaining silence can create negativity and further fuel uncertainty, making it difficult for employees to trust your leadership.

Holding regular conference calls with teams working from home, can maintain morale and focus. It also enables flexibility to plan work schedules around an employee’s home life. They may be balancing home working with childcare or caring for vulnerable family members.

It is crucial to remember that situations and requirements will vary for every employee. Flexibility is key to accommodate and communicate with staff effectively in their chosen manner.

Promote a healthy lifestyle

Encourage staff to establish a routine when working at home, taking regular breaks throughout the day where they can get natural light, fresh air and exercise within the government’s guidelines on social distancing. Finishing work at an appropriate time is also recommended, to create clear separation between the workplace and home environment.

You can create a place online for people to engage socially in light-hearted activities such as quizzes and other well-being activities.

Manage your own feelings

Let’s not forget that this is a time of uncertainty and anxiety for you, as the business owner. The key is managing your own feelings, to build up resilience in the face of the adversity. Start with basic measures such as getting enough sleep and natural light, fresh air and exercise. Although stresses arising from COVID-19 are viewed negatively, enforced changes offer the potential for transformational growth by developing different personal strengths, improving relationships and appreciating different aspects of our lives which perhaps we took for granted. Maintaining positive thought awareness, can help to refocus your outlook to adopt a more optimistic view.

We are not in control of the COVID-19 pandemic and there are likely to be many testing days to come. However, we can choose how we respond. Work may not be the sole cause of poor mental health amongst employees but identifying areas that may contribute towards increased stress levels, can help to address where improvements can be made.

Through being reassuring and purposeful leaders, there are a number of ways business owners can support their employees through this particularly unsettling period.

For any enquiries contact Wesleyan Bank at bankcommercialsales@wesleyan.co.uk

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