With winter fast approaching there are a number of stress factors affecting the mental health of many of us. Lockdowns mean many of us are working from home and seeing less of our family and friends, which often leads to feelings of isolation. There is so much uncertainty right now with many people worried about unemployment and experiencing significant financial challenges. The darker mornings and evenings and cold weather means there is less opportunity to leave the house for fresh air and exercise.
Whilst COVID-19 continues to be a massive concern for so many check out our 7 ways managers can support mental health in the workplace this winter.
First things first, as a manager you need to look after yourself. Many of you will have heard about the oxygen mask analogy. On a flight, the safety announcement tells us to use the oxygen mask ourselves first before we help other people. It’s the same in the workplace or at home. If you don’t look after yourself you won’t be in a good place to look after others.
- Maintain a positive work/life balance and encourage your team to do the same – life is a marathon not a sprint so pace yourself. Start and finish work at a reasonable time, create health boundaries around work. Have a healthy lifestyle paying attention to your hydration, nutrition and exercise. Encourage your team to do the same. Download our 5 Ways To Wellbeing While Working From Home tips and share with your team.
- Share reputable sources and follow official advice. As employers and managers we have a duty of care to protect the health and safety of our people. Part of that is sharing information and advice. Ensure you share from reputable sources link Public Health England, the Health and Safety Executive, Mind. The NHS Covid app has the latest advice.
- Talk to your people regularly. I’d encourage leaders to have conversations about mental health as part of regular 121s. By having regular conversations you’ll be able to notice any changes in behaviours and spot the signs of declining mental health and wellbeing. Signs you’re looking out for include becoming more withdrawn, changes in timekeeping, low mood, irritability, changes in performance. Any change is a potential indicator. Check out our short video on How To Have A Conversation About Mental Health for tips to help you through the conversation.
- Everyone has mental health – even you – normalise mental health conversations. Mental health is often referred to as a taboo subject. There is so much stigma around mental health, often perpetuated by the fact that we don’t talk about it. If you’re interested in learning more about how to support others experiencing mental ill health you may want to think about training to be a mental health first aider.
- Encourage your team to use the support tools available. If you have an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) make sure everyone knows how to access it. In my experience you can’t communicate about support enough. If you don’t have an EAP you can signpost to reliable resources like Mind, NHS Samaritans. The Hub of Hope is a directory of mental health support services by location.
- Establish new ways of working. Many people are working from home. It’s necessitated new ways of working. We might have thought it was temporary but current guidance is if you can work from home do so, so home working is here to stay. Ensure people have the right DSE set up and knowledge to create a healthy set up. Working in a socially distanced way often means a greater reliance on technology. Many of us have adapted to using Zoom or MS Teams and other new technology but if you don’t feel confident using the technology it can add to stress so make sure you’re providing adequate training.
- Use technology for work and social aspects of work. Plan in social events using technology, perhaps a lunch time quiz or bingo session, virtual coffee breaks with the team. Get creative! There are so many options. Don’t make it mandatory but try to be inclusive. Recognise that this is a difficult time and some people will want to join in and others won’t and that’s OK.