Although the pandemic is receding the official guidance remains work from home when you can. Monday’s announcement will reinforce this advice. More people are becoming used to hybrid working a mixture of home and office. The wellbeing and mental health of staff who can work from home and feel isolated or have been adversely impacted by covid is becoming more and more important.
A 4 week delay in ‘returning to normal’ which may seem trivial, for some it will be the straw that breaks the camel’s back and bring to the fore their mental health issues.
There is a difference between ‘mental health’ and mental health illness. Mental health is the feeling when we wake up look in the mirror and feel grotty. We are not in peak condition but can work through it. We are not on medication neither do we need specialist help to get through the day.
In contrast, if we have a mental health illness then we are likely to have had a formal medical diagnosis and have an understanding of how it might be affecting us hour by hour, day by day and week by week. Of course, some mental health illnesses are successfully controlled by medication, so the effects are minimal if we follow the prescribed medication routine, whilst others are not always so successfully controlled.
A poor mental health day does not mean you have a mental health illness. Anxiety, a lack of sleep, feeling unsupported, poor diet, lack of exercise or fresh air, fear of failure, money worries, house move stress etc. are all things that might create a situation where someone has a short period of poor mental health.
Of course, managers will have to manage both those with mental illnesses as well as those experiencing poor mental health.
Both the employee and employer are responsible for managing mental health As adults in the workplace, we need to be responsible for our own mental health management. However, the organisation has responsibilities too, especially if the employee asks for support or identifies something within the workplace or working day that is causing their poor mental health.
You probably don’t need a specific mental health policy, it should be part of your wellbeing policy. Managers need to be trained and educated to look for the signs and to establish an environment where staff can freely talk about mental health issues. For larger organsiations you may want to consider the use of mental health first aiders who can both educate the staff and deal with individual issues. For managers shown below is a small checklist to help them support their team members
– Make time for your staff.
– Learn to listen better.
– Be on the alert for emotional distress.
– Read or watch a few video clips to learn about mental health. Be available.
– Don’t shy away from the topic because it involves messy emotions – get courageous!