Living with Covid After Freedom Day – What Does This Mean for Workplace Mental Health & Wellbeing?
19th July 2021, “Freedom Day” signifies the end of England’s lockdown rules. As the last remaining closed businesses re-open, and social distancing and mask wearing no longer mandatory in all but the most limited circumstances, Freedom Day, stirs up mixed emotions for many. For some, it is a time of excitement as we come out of the compulsory restrictions, whilst for others who feel particularly vulnerable, it is a time of anxiety and concerns about a third wave and if we will go back into lockdown or not during the winter months.
The pandemic has impacted both our physical and mental health, and with the announcement of Freedom Day, MindSpace 247 has seen a surge in mental health issues. After a period of unprecedented change following Covid 19, the public’s anxiety levels are anticipated to rise exponentially as the nation’s workforce grapples with a return to “normality”.
Making Mental Health & Wellbeing in the Workplace a Priority
As restrictions come to an end, so does the compulsory need for employees to work from home. Employers have had to carefully considered and put into place appropriate measures and precautions to safeguard their employee’s physical health as they gradually return to work.
However, how many have considered their employees mental health and wellbeing? Employees will be returning to their ‘normal’ working environment with varying needs and expectations. Some may be excited by the prospect of reconnecting socially with their colleagues; whilst others may be anxious about interacting with new and existing colleagues, only heightening mental health issues such as stress, anxiety and depression, built up over the lockdown period.
Managing Director of MindSpace 247 Guy Outram said, “We must avoid a decline in workforce mental health and the subsequent likely increased strain on the economy. I suggest business owners should talk to us now to ensure their staff have quick access to the best possible support. If left, this can only escalate to long term issues for staff and businesses alike.”
As responsibility of Covid related risk management transfers from government to individual organisations, the protection of employee mental health and wellbeing should be made an equal priority.
Working towards a new normal post “Freedom Day”
The pandemic has redefined the nature of the working environment. Working from home has had its positives, but at the same time, it has blurred the lines between home and working life and to a point removed an element of social interaction from people’s working life creating social anxiety due to ‘normal’ interactions becoming almost foreign.
A recent report from Envoy showed that 70% of workers believed a ‘Hybrid Working Model’ allowing them to work remotely or in their office would be benefit them personally in terms of their mental health, work life balance and financially.
With homeworking arrangements no longer being a requirement as employees return to their normal places of work, fear of rising workplace tensions between those who have had to work from home and those who have had to work in their normal working environment could result in further stress and anxiety amongst colleagues. It’s therefore vital for employers to find ways to support their employees and promote a positive mental space and wellbeing.
What Steps Can Employers Take?
The pandemic has turned our lives upside down in different ways for each of us, changing how we live and work. Employers therefore need to ensure a smooth transition for employees returning to work, maintaining a feeling of togetherness whilst protecting their physical & mental health and wellbeing.
So, what can employers do to protect and support good mental health and wellbeing in the workplace post “Freedom Day”?
- Prepare and communicate – Put employees at ease by sharing a clear plan of the steps you are taking to safeguard their physical and mental health in the workplace. Ask them for feedback on the steps being taken to allow you to address any of their concerns and worries.
- Let employees know support is always available – Employees may already be suffering from pandemic burnout, returning to their normal place of work with feelings of exhaustion, being overwhelmed or alienated and as a result impacting their productivity. Some employees may have suffered illness themselves or bereavement during lockdown. Make employees aware from the outset that support is available, whether by providing details of mental health and wellbeing charities or support lines, or even regular 1-1 support meetings giving employees the opportunity to discuss how they are coping with their transition back to ‘normal’ work.
- Review your employee benefits – Make health and wellbeing a part of your employee benefits strategy. Whether you are a trade organisation, an SME, charity or corporate business, supporting your employees with a mental health care package where they can access help and support any time, wherever they are and whenever they need it will help build their resilience and improve their productivity.
Everyone is coming from a different perspective back to the workplace, with mixed opinions which can bring on stress and anxiety. Regardless of the work environment, whether it is an office, factory or hospital, employers need to consider the psychological, emotional and wellbeing needs of their employees returning to their ‘normal’ workplace environment and recognise this will be different to their pre-pandemic needs.
Unlike many other on-line therapy services and apps, users of MindSpace247 are connected to a fully qualified therapist at any time of day or night, 7 days a week. For more information about our business services – Contact us Today, or call us on 0207 553 5010.