Mental Health Awareness Week this year has the very timely theme of Kindness.
These past few months, leading up to mental Health Awareness Week when no one has really known what to do, what we have done is come together and been kind.
Captain Tom, Sir Tom actually, grabbed the nations headlinesand hearts with his simple challenge to raise £1000.00 for the NHS, he’d raised over £32 million when donations closed.
Joe Wicks has a daily worldwide PE lesson to keep children (and their parents) fit during lockdown. Not only is helping the many children who don’t have an outside space to play in keep fit in a fun way he has raised over £200k.
Jay Flynn has broken records with his Virtual Pub Quiz, which he initially set up to entertain a few friends in lockdown – last week he had Stephen Fry guest hosting and had raised hundreds of thousands of pounds for the NHS and other charities.
People in communities everywhere are coming together and performing the most amazing acts of kindness on a daily basis. Groups of volunteers have sprung up on social media to help cook and shop for the elderly and vulnerable. People are donating fabric so that sewers can make scrubs for our local hospitals and care homes. Children have drawn rainbows and put them in windows. Our weekly ‘night out’ is standing in our front gardens clapping and making noise in a bid to say thankyou to our NHS and all keyworkers because frankly there are not enough words to thank them for what they are doing for us.
Carrying out acts of kindness is good for our mental wellbeing, it makes us feel good. It is also beneficial for the mental wellbeing of the those we do it for.
Research by Mind has found that in any given week in England 1 in 6 of us struggle with our ematal health. That’s around 9.2 million of us, about the same number of people that have been furloughed due to Covid-19. One survey reported mental ill health was the reason for 58% of sick leave in 2019. Seeing as this research was carried before the current crisis, we can fully expect those numbers to rise.
Mental health awareness is vital in the workplace, whether your staff be on site, field based or working remotely. So how can you help support good mental wellbeing and raise mental health awareness in your business?
Remove the stigma
Would you know how to react if an employee told you they were struggling? It might be a bit awkward right? Would it be likely that an employee even felt able to open up to you about it?
To allow people to talk openly they need to know they won’t be judged for what they are saying. Mental Health First Aid training for employees allows you to have a one or more people in your business as a contact for anyone who feels they might need some help with their struggles.
It’s good to talk
You might have found recently that with most people not being in the same workspace you are having more contact with your teams but is it quality contact? Is it all work chat? Have you taken the time to find out how they are? Having regular individual contact will help identify any changes in people mental wellness, if you can do it over video call even better as it makes that contact even more personal.
I was on a webinar recently about mental health awareness and one participant shared that their manager started a call with an apology for being a bit elusive in the preceding days and explained that they had been having a very low few days and had been struggling themselves to get into gear. How refreshing that they felt able to share that with their team, to let their employees know that it’s ok not to always be ok.
The best kindness you can show someone who does open up to you is to listen, you don’t have to have an answer for them so don’t try to think of one when they are talking to you. Don’t say you know how they feel if you don’t either, this is not about you it;s about them. Being there is enough.
Getting the balance right
We’ve written many times about the work-life balance. Employees not taking their annual leave, of taking it and then working through it. Staying late and not taking breaks. But now working is different, I’m sat at my kitchen table, people are working in their spare bedrooms and sheds! Working from home which was once feared by many businesses had to happen overnight for many, bringing a whole heap of new challenges.
As an employer you have to accept that work will be done differently, it might be done in pockets in between spellings, times tables, lunch times and refereeing sibling spats or either side of getting some fresh air and exercise. That doesn’t mean that when an email took an hour to be answered or the mobile went to voicemail that your member of staff was slacking off or that they won’t be catching up later in the evening after the day has settled down and the kids have gone bed and it doesn’t mean they won’t be productive. It might also mean that your employees are spending more time than usual working as they feel they need to prove to you that they aren’t skiving off!
Where businesses are starting to reopen and employees are coming into work things will also be different. It may take some time to get used to the new way of doing things, some employees will have concerns and be anxious about returning, some will not even be able to come back yet.
So while the traditional way you worked may have changed your employees still need to know that they can take their breaks and finish when their day is done so that they can switch off, relax.
All of us have been under enormous pressure in recent weeks to adapt to the changing circumstances we are living during. My experience will be different to yours and yours different to the next persons. None of us can be completely sure how anyone else is coping unless they feel safe enough to tell us. It’s not likely that our worlds will go back to normal anytime soon so the best we can do for the now is be kind, to ourselves and each other. Eat well, stay hydrated, get quality sleep, exercise and rest. Accept that you can’t control everything but focus on what you can and if things don’t go quite according to plan don’t worry, tomorrow is a new day.
If you have any concerns for the mental wellbeing of your team vivoHR have trained Mental Health First Aiders and would be happy to help. You can also get advice and help from the below organisations.
The Samaritans tel 116 123