2020 has been difficult for many people, for a vast array of reasons. The global pandemic has led to economic and social disruption, along with a surge in unemployment. Many of those in employment have had to quickly adapt, often working from home where possible, which has affected employee mental wellbeing.
The pandemic has had a deep impact on people’s mental health and wellbeing. Mental health charity, Mind, found that 60% of adults and 68% of young people said their mental health had worsened during the lockdown. Furthermore, a survey by the World Health Organisation (WHO) found that isolation, bereavement, fear and loss of income are triggering mental health conditions or worsening existing ones. It is possible that the mental health implications of COVID-19 will continue for many months or even years. The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) stated that just two weeks into lockdown, employees were reporting various health impacts, including negative impacts on mental health and wellbeing.
What are companies doing to support employee mental wellbeing?
Many key workers on the frontline in healthcare sectors are under a substantial amount of pressure due to COVID-19. Not only are some of them at increased risk of catching the virus due to exposure, but many are also looking after critically ill patients. The National Health Service (NHS) has developed a comprehensive package of practical support for all NHS staff which include three phases of support: Preparation, Active and Recovery. The Preparation phase includes visible leadership, enhanced line management support and peer support systems. The Active phase includes support such as normalising psychological responses and formal psychological care, including a free psychological first aid training course. Finally, the Recovery phase includes support such as allowing time and space for staff to seek help where needed, seeking feedback from staff about what their mental wellbeing needs are and recognising and rewarding staff contribution. The NHS has also partnered with Headspace, a meditation and mindfulness application, and all employees have been given free subscriptions.
In other sectors, it is still incredibly important to ensure that the staff’s mental well-being is being supported too. Chevron has always been keen to support their employee’s mental and physical health. During the pandemic, they have provided access to licensed counsellors and self-guided resilience resources. Furthermore, Chevron has a wellbeing HUB, which provides useful information and tips on how to cope during the current difficult working environment.
EY Global also already offered various support to help enhance employee mental wellbeing but has implemented further support during the pandemic. Staff at EY have access to free mobile applications to help improve sleeping habits and build emotional resilience. There is also one-on-one counselling, with a 24-hour hotline and daily group sessions for parents and adult caregivers. Additionally, the company have introduced a free eight-week mindfulness course with daily-drop in sessions and back-up childcare support has been extended, alongside virtual workout classes and yoga.
Another example of a company that is very committed to ensuring the well-being of their workers is Culligan Water. On top of the strategies that were already in place, the company have added various different resources for their workers during the pandemic. These include; weekly self-care videos, morale boosting activities, manager well-being calls and one-on-one coaching.
Other approaches include giving employees extra family leave, which is what Goldman Sachs has chosen to do or offering extended leave benefits to those who are working parents, which is what Microsoft has implemented.
It’s clear that the mental health impact of COVID-19 on employees isn’t just going to disappear. Companies should be looking to implement long-term strategies to help ensure their employee’s mental health and well-being is supported. Although it is clear that some companies have put in place various strategies to help do so, it is vital that these services and resources do not suddenly become unavailable when the pandemic is over. Support for employees is likely to be needed for the foreseeable future and it is important that companies are constantly looking for better and more effective ways to support their staff.
Zoe Lightowler likes to express herself through writing, baking and anything crafty! Being chronically ill herself means she is very passionate about raising awareness of long-term illnesses, especially those which may be invisible to others. Zoe also loves animals, comedy films and taking care of her many house plants.