In a world that is increasingly opening up to, and learning to understand those with mental health issues, its relevant to mark a global day of recognition especially more so due to the ongoing impact of the pandemic in both personal and work life.
What is #mentalhealth?
Everyone has mental health and, like physical health, it fluctuates along a spectrum. It can vary from good mental well-being to severe mental health problems. Work can have a huge impact on mental health, often promoting well-being or triggering problems.
What does poor mental health include?
- struggling with low mood,
What are common mental health conditions?
- obsessive-compulsive disorders ,
- bipolar disorder.
Mental health problems affect around one in four people in any given year. Work related stress is a form of poor mental health, defined by the Health and Safety Executive as a reaction to excessive pressure or other type of demand placed on an individual at work. Stress can be a significant cause of illness.
#Mentalhealth in an unequal world
From the beginning of the pandemic it has been clear that the circumstances as a result of Covid19 have caused people to struggle. The challenge has been even harder for those who already had additional responsibilities or circumstances to manage such as underlying health conditions or to care for dependants; those being children or family. The Mental health Foundation has launched a Covid Response Program to work with partners to help those who have been hit the hardest. ACAS have published new guidance in an attempt to provide additional support to employers and employees during this ongoing difficult time.
ACAS guidance focuses on mental health support following a survey which found that half of people working from home; some who still work from home, felt isolated, and an even higher proportion miss the social interaction of work and other people. With the ongoing management of the risk of Covid19, mental health been has become an issue to consider for the majority. The landscape of life as we knew it has somewhat changed, leaving individuals facing the reality of new ways of working and living causing additional stress, worry and anxiety.
Duty of care
Employers should recognise the risks that work-related stress can pose and it is essential that they are aware of the need to put in place an adequate support system to help those returning to the workplace, mental health should be an item high on the agenda list.
Employers tend to focus on managing physical health and safety, however it is a useful reminder that employers are legally required to ensure the "welfare" of their employees, and others, so far as reasonably practicable, when at work. This includes work-related stress.
The Charity @Mind have put together some useful tips for employers to pass on to employees to show support and understanding to employees who may be struggling with their mental health:
- Encourage a positive work/life balance.
- Arranging regular (virtual) meetings or check-ins.
- Maintain a collegiate workplace with team building exercises.
- Encourage staff to create a Wellness Action Plan, detailing practical steps to provide support when needed.
- Embracing technology and video communication platforms e.g. Zoom, Skype, Google meet to connect with colleagues and work together if some staff still work remotely.
- Remind staff of additional support measure sin place such as Employee Assistance Programs, dedicated apps, websites, counselling sessions via skype or phone or physical activity classes such as yoga and meditation online. Ask employees what they might find useful.
Employers and employees are reminded that if employees suffer from mental health conditions, there is a possibility that the condition is a #disability under the #EqualiltyAct2010, subject to satisfying the requirements. Employers are under a duty to make reasonable adjustments.
What could reasonable adjustments be?
- Home working
- Additional support from management
- Supportive equipment
Business as usual
As the world seems keen for ‘business as usual, the UK having taken extensive steps to return to normality, there seem to be fifty shades of grey when it comes to what people consider to be reasonable in terms of Covid related risks. Every individual has a different threshold and this is likely to be a result of multiple factors, including family and personal circumstances, and physical and mental health and wellbeing considerations.
Employers should be aware of the possible impact on mental health due to the pandemic and associated factors. There may be individuals who feel compromised by coming to work (they may not have had their booster or are waiting for the same), or vulnerable themselves, or due to family reasons (living with or caring for a vulnerable individual), still have childcare responsibilities or are genuinely concerned about their health and safety; all of which can have an adverse impact on mental health and exacerbate stress and anxiety levels.
For further advice on how to manage mental health in the workplace; please contact Kaajal Nathwani Head of the Employment Department on 020 8363 4444.