As children we’re taught, in a world where you can be anything, be kind. Yet it’s a mantra that’s often forgotten when we’re busy, stressed, tired, or dealing with life in a global pandemic! Ok, so the latter isn’t one any of us are prepared for and with mental health taking a real spotlight in the workplace, it’s perhaps now more important than ever to recognise and support employees.

In research, conducted by the CIPD and Simplyhealth, 60 per cent of organisations reported an increase in common mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression among employees over the last year. The CIPD also predicted that the pandemic would only exacerbate these conditions for many.

Here are some helpful tips to readdress the balance and help a team who may be frantically paddling to stay afloat at home.

Looking after number one. We’re probably the last to admit we are battling with mental health as there’s such a stigma attached to it, but there needn’t be. We’re all dealing with something in lockdown, and there’s never been a better reason to take stock and look after you.   Why not sign up to Mental Health Moments, for free wellbeing and kindness resources sent straight to your inbox, a timely reminder if ever you needed one.

Flexible working. Is it integral that your team works from 9am-5pm or is there a little flex in there? Is someone struggling with settling down during the day, but is super productive after dark? Communication is key. Work out what works best for them and the company and set a plan in action. You can always review and revise if it’s not working!

Home from home. Remember not everyone has the dream desk setup we see in magazines. Is there something you can send your employees as a little pick me up? New stationery, desk snacks or a personal pick me up. That’s a big tick in the ‘thinking of you’ kindness box!

Supporting furloughed team members. With furlough becoming a word we’re all very familiar with, how are you supporting your furloughed team members? While some of course may be embracing the situation and learning new skills amid uncertainty, others may be worrying about the future, battling loneliness, struggling with children or a partner and home, and a feeling of guilt if they know colleagues are busy and under pressure. What can you do? Be open and transparent about the future, what can they expect and when. Provide regular updates, invite them to any online team building activities and be ready to welcome them back to the business. If they’ve been away for a long period of time, it’s going to take some adjusting and perhaps patience from all sides.

Working from home with children… now there’s a pressure point not many of us are used to managing. Workload, conference calls, clients, suppliers… and homework! A recent poll by People Management and CIPD found nearly two-thirds (65 per cent) of employers were concerned about staff’s ability to balance home working with parenting commitments.

Can your employees flex their hours? Working outside core hours can be beneficial to all parties, and means work and homework still gets done. Early mornings, evenings or weekends allow a flex to meet everyone’s needs. And while it may be hard if work isn’t being done, do show empathy. Working parents are struggling with the guilt of leaving children parked in front of the tv, or not keeping the house spick and span. Piling on the pressure isn’t going to have the desired outcome.

Happy teams. Keeping in touch is the most important thing you can do! A friendly email, Zoom message, WhatsApp or call (at an agreed time) can make a real difference to someone struggling at home. Check in on priorities, deadlines, and don’t forget to ask how they’re really doing.

Can you arrange out of work hour socials? Not only is it fun for the whole team to get together and not talk about work, but for some, this could be the only social event they’re having with other adults. And what better outlet after a hard day of Zoom calls!

Sources: https://mentalhealth-uk.org/blog/supporting-employees-on-furlough/; https://www.peoplemanagement.co.uk/news/articles/employers-must-step-up-mental-health-support-during-coronavirus; https://www.prweek.com/article/1683551/help-working-parents-avoid-burnout-during-lockdown; https://www.peoplemanagement.co.uk/news/articles/key-and-home-workers-struggling-with-childcare

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