Keebles LLP advise on caring for employee mental health during the Coronavirus outbreak

Health and economic worries continue to impact on all aspects of life, but at a time of self-isolation and social distancing, our mental health can struggle more than ever. In response, Catherine Wilson, Head of Employment at leading Yorkshire law firm Keebles LLP, has shared advice on how employers can ensure the mental health of their workforce continues to be looked after.

Catherine says:

“Widespread home working coupled with compulsory furloughing of staff under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme – which prohibits employees from working during periods of furlough has left many employees feeling isolated, fearful for their physical health and concerned about job security or loss of income.

“With no end seemingly in sight, it is imperative that during this turbulent time, employers continue to protect their employee’s mental health and wellbeing. Employers should remember that their legal duty of care for the health and safety of their employees carries on no matter where those staff are based, furloughed or otherwise.

“Firstly – regular, open communication is essential. With so much uncertainty, it falls to business leaders to be the calm voice of reason and reassurance to employees. It is also important to remember that how something is communicated is just as important as what is being communicated.

“It is important that furloughed workers don’t feel excluded from the life of the business – a quick call or email message on non-work matters could make all the difference. These touch points should be scheduled by managers as a way of keeping in touch.

Remember, this is not a case of ‘business as usual’. Any manager or leader who fails to acknowledge the psychological impact of being in lockdown or quarantined at home will be letting their staff down. The needs, behaviours and attitudes of employees will change. This is even more relevant when it comes to employees who are parents and are having to juggle their work with home-schooling or entertaining small children.

From conference call coffee breaks to virtual pub quizzes, the best way to combat loneliness during this time it to maintain a connection with your colleagues. It is also important that this becomes part of the weekly routine, so it is something for people to look forward to. This will also make space for people to be open when they are struggling.

“To better support staff during and after the crisis, the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) recommends employers to encourage staff to practice self-care such as, developing a healthy routine for diet, sleep and relaxation outside of work.

“Getting into a daily routine and perhaps taking up a new hobby or volunteering, particularly if you are a furloughed worker, have all been suggested as ways of combatting a decline in mental health.

“As an employer you may provide access to support services through the workplace. Employee Assistance programmes can be of great benefit during this time however these are often not well understood or publicised by the workforce. Ensure that all staff irrespective of location are clear how to access such support via email, intranet and other regular update from line managers reminders.

“Employers should also draw attention to any specific resources relating to the outbreak. Make sure employees know who to talk to internally and provide access to named support. If your company has mental health champions, allies or mental health first siders make sure they too have the latest information, and that this network of mental health support carries on remotely as much as possible.

“Now more than ever, it is good to talk. “

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