The exceptional events of recent times have taken their toll on us all. With the tragic loss of so many lives, no-one has been left untouched by the devastating physical effects of Covid-19. But the full extent of its mental health impact is still emerging.

The mental health impact of Covid

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), depression and anxiety are set to rise as a result of the Covid pandemic. Reports suggesting an increase in alcohol consumption, gambling and other addictions during this time are also of major concern.

In their May news release, the Director-General of WHO cited a number of reasons for the predicted increase in mental distress: “Social isolation, fear of contagion, and loss of family members is compounded by the distress caused by loss of income and often employment.”

Supporting staff mental health

Workplaces need to be proactive in addressing the wellbeing needs arising from this spike in mental distress. Putting in place a staff wellbeing plan that supports mental health across the whole staff group will ensure the workforce is protected and reduce the impact on the organisation. Here are some top workplace wellbeing tips to consider:

Talk to your people about mental health

Sharing information about mental health, typical triggers for difficulties and how staff can recognise when they are struggling is a first step to destigmatising it.

Acknowledging the ongoing uncertainty everyone is facing and the stress this can cause opens the conversation about mental health. Explore what the organisation can do to help. Maybe regular wellbeing check-ins or strategies for managing workloads are what’s needed.

Listen to staff. You don’t have to be a mental health expert to show concern and interest in staff mental wellbeing. Just asking about how staff members are feeling and listening to what they have to say can make all the difference.

And remember that with so many demands at work it can be easy to make assumptions and accept “I’m fine” as the whole truth. It may not be.

Encourage self-care behaviours

Self-care is essential for mental wellbeing but often overlooked at work. Try:

  • Encouraging staff to take regular breaks
  • Supporting people to manage time and work tasks by prioritising and setting reasonable targets
  • Creating opportunities for social connection and support between staff members
  • Offering workplace wellbeing initiatives aimed at increasing mental health awareness and strategies for managing stress symptoms.

Support healthy homeworking practices

Encourage staff to set clear boundaries around work so that space and time for family and hobbies is protected. Remember, recovery time is important as it helps people to recharge and return to work with more motivation and enthusiasm.

Ensure managers are equipped to offer support

It’s not always easy to talk about mental health. Managers who are trained in emotional and social intelligence skills will be much more attuned to the wellbeing needs of their staff. By creating space for conversations about mental health, these managers create a sense of trust and safety among staff that facilitates honest discussion and positive relationships.

Remember, as the mental health fallout of Covid continues, putting a workplace wellbeing plan in place now will reap health benefits for individuals, teams and the wider organisation.