To say a pandemic is a stressful period would be an understatement, and now the world of work is set to change drastically again when the government support ends for businesses and employees return en-masse to offices and workplaces. Whilst this pandemic has – obviously – affected the physical health of many, it has touched the mental health of many, many more: and businesses need to adjust to and support their employees through this.
Remember: This Isn’t About Existing Conditions
Although staff who have already suffered with or continue to suffer with mental health issues may be in need of additional support upon their return to work (and should be checked in on by an appropriate confidante who can be used as a sounding board and link to HR), the mental health toll of experiencing the world through a pandemic is near universal. Even the happiest and healthiest of people previously may now be suffering from symptoms of depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress or other mental health conditions; so don’t discount those who return to the office with a smile and a carefree attitude.
The Variables Are Endless
It is important to note that whilst no two bodies are the same in terms of physical health, neither are any two minds in term of mental health. Some staff will be afraid of returning to the workplace, some anxious about staying at home any longer than needed. Some staff will be concerned about contracting the virus, and others nervous about passing it on to others. Worries and anxieties will surface in different ways for different people and the symptoms will differ. All employees need to be supported, no matter how their mental health changes manifest.
Circumstances Are Still Changing
It’s critical to remember that despite the mass numbers of businesses ‘returning to normal’, the world isn’t over coronavirus just yet. The state of societal health, global economies and changes to everyday norms will continue to develop, fluctuate and advance on a daily basis. As medical professionals will note that mental health recovery isn’t linear, neither is the world’s recovery from this pandemic. Businesses must be prepared to adapt and overcome as necessary, and remain understanding of employees’ altering perspectives and feelings.
Wellbeing Should Be A Professional Priority
There are many ways that companies can continue to promote happy, healthy workforces and to positive mental health without having to offer formalised mental health support services. Ensure employees feel empowered and have a comfortable outlet to raise and discuss any arising issues, encourage a healthy work-life balance and maintain open and honest communications that nurture development and growth both professionally and personally.
Only time will tell the mental health cost of COVID-19 on the workforce, but there’s one thing we can be sure of already – we don’t need to wait to see how bad things really are before we take action to strengthen, embolden and support our hardworking and loyal staff.
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