Supporting the mental health of employees is now more important than ever. They might be worried about their job, living alone and struggling to cope with isolation during lockdown, or facing stress as they work from home while trying to home-school their children at the same time.
Nearly half of adults in the UK have suffered from anxiety problems because of the coronavirus pandemic, according to a government survey - the Office of National Statistics (ONS) said 47 per cent of people had reported “high levels” of anxiety.
Over four in five of people surveyed – 84 per cent – said they were worried about the effect the virus is having on their life, while 53 per cent said it was affecting their wellbeing, according to the ONS.
Fortunately, as understanding of the importance of mental health and the link between mental and physical health has increased over the years, most private medical insurers have expanded their range of benefits and services.
These services can include online GP and Specialist consultations, mental health support services such as phone or online counselling, remote physiotherapy for musculoskeletal conditions that can be a cause of pain and depression, and support from specialist nurses for the management of ongoing heart, cancer or psychiatric conditions.
Our sister company, Towergate Health and Protection advise that with large numbers of people currently either working from home or confined to home, these services will be as important, or more important, than ever before. There are many things which employers can do to help support the mental health of their teams during this challenging time, including:
1. Promote the mental health support that’s available
Employers should be communicating to their teams the details of all the remote support services which are available to them through their current employee benefit scheme. Businesses that offer benefits such as employee assistance programmes (EAPs), virtual GPs, health and wellbeing apps, or direct lines to mental health specialists are likely to find that these benefits are really coming into their own right now.
2. Provide good IT support
Employers that expect staff to work from home need to make sure they’re supported with adequate technology and good telephone support, enabling them to carry on with duties as seamlessly as possible and minimising causes of stress.
3. Maintain normal routines where possible
The rapid pace of recent changes to how we live and work can be a real source of stress and anxiety, and many people take comfort in the familiar, so rather than cancelling regular office meetings just replace them with virtual ones, particularly where video-calling is available as it helps people to stay connected and to see a friendly face on a regular basis.
4. Communicate regularly
For many people the workplace is an important source of social interaction and being isolated from it can cause feelings of loneliness – so it’s imperative that companies keep in touch with their staff. Email is always an important means of communication, but it can be relied on far too much, and is never as effective as verbal communication in helping us understand how others feel. It’s important that managers and colleagues make the effort to pick up the phone and talk. Regular phone calls or video calls all help maintain dialogue and give us the opportunity to ask not just what our colleagues are doing, but also how they’re doing.
5. Be open and honest
During a time of heightened anxiety, with fears around health and prospects with employment, it’s important to be as open and honest as possible with developments. Shutting down lines of communication may fuel the fire with regards to gossip, creating an unhelpful and inaccurate narrative that can cause further anxiety.
Brett Hill, Distribution Director at Towergate Health & Protection says: “These are unprecedented times and employers have a lot to get to grips with. Bearing the brunt of a lot of this change are employees themselves.
Understanding that it may take a toll on their mental health and thinking through some of the ways pressure can be alleviated, will help employees to manage themselves more effectively in the short and longer term.
With many employers scrambling for solutions to the multitude of challenges coronavirus has presented, health and wellbeing benefits can lighten some of the load, supporting employees to manage their mental wellbeing more effectively.”
The information contained in this bulletin is based on sources that we believe are reliable and should be understood as general risk management and insurance information only. It is not intended to be taken as advice with respect to any specific or individual situation and cannot be relied upon as such. If you wish to discuss your specific requirements, please do not hesitate to contact your usual Towergate Insurance Brokers advisor.