Going back to the normal life we used to have is nearly impossible because the fear of COVID-19 has crawled into most people’s mind, thus affecting their mental health. Kaiser Family Foundation survey revealed that depression and anxiety are already roiling the nation as the pandemic surges. Nearly half of Americans report the coronavirus crisis is harming their mental health. Emotional distress also increased by 1,000 percent in April compared with the same time last year.
HR professionals are worried that their employees are infected, causing more absences. Mental Health Foundation, collaborated with LinkedIn, polled more than 1,000 HR professionals and found that more than half (58 percent) HR managers fear losing staff to sick leave due to the mental health impacts of working in lockdown. Meanwhile, more than half (54 percent) of respondents believe that mental health issues, such as stress, burnout, isolation and loneliness, had increased among workers since the COVID-19 hit.
See also: 7 Ways to Support Employee’s Mental Health amidst the Pandemic
Mental stress can stay within an individual for many months and even years, a survey found. There is no doubt that it would affect the return-to-work mentality when lockdown ends. Therefore, here are tips from CIPD for HR and leaders to avoid such “unreadiness mentality” from occurring and help employees cope with their mental health illness upon returning to work.
- Open the door and give support. Workers might feel isolated and many admit that their leaders do not even ask them how they are doing since the pandemic began. If you haven’t had time to check on your employees, now is the right time to do it. Show empathy and support for employees to regain an effective work-life balance. Address their fear of working on-site by asking what might hold them up if the lockdown lifted and they are required to work on-site again. HR leaders should not merely focus on the diagnosis of mental health, but rather focus on the impact it has on your employees at work.
- When employees started to work for the organisation in the time prior to lockdown, they might need a re-indication into the workplace to help them feel connected and engaged. This could also help cover any health and safety changes in line with the Government’s COVID-secure workplace guidelines.
- Brief managers on the potential mental health implications of COVID-19 and their specific roles and responsibilities in relation to supporting staff.
- Communicate regularly on wellbeing and mental health support, wherever possible supported by activities that encourage physical, mental, financial, and social wellbeing.
- Provide mental health awareness-raising activities and work towards a culture where it is acceptable to talk about and seek support for poor mental health.
When it comes to supporting the return to the workplace agenda for employees who suffer from mental stress, here are some potential interventions for HR and leaders to consider.
- Keep in contact with the employee on a regular basis and update them on any key organisational communications or changes.
- Make it clear that the employees should not rush back to work until they are ready.
- Refer to Occupational Health or signpost other relevant services.
- Consider phased returns to work – even where the employee is working from home and not returning to a physical workplace. Conduct a formal return to work meeting, even if this is conducted via online meeting or phone call.
- Discuss and support the employee needs to help them to make a successful return and support their mental health – this should include the role of the manager and how they can help.
- Ensure ongoing dialogue and regular contact following the return to work.
- Review performance objectives and workload – adjust where necessary.
Read also: Employees Concern about Return-to-Work Measurement