Alongside its many impacts, the COVID-19 pandemic is having a significant effect on employee mental wellbeing, especially for those who are working remotely. Whilst working from home has many benefits, it can also cause loneliness and burnout which can lead to anxiety, stress and depression.
As International Stress Awareness Week takes place this week (2 – 6 November 2020), and the UK continues to face further pro-longed COVID-19-related restrictions, it has never been more important to support the wellbeing of employees who are working from home.
Promoting mental wellbeing and a healthy lifestyle not only benefits your employees, but also it also benefits your business by improving attendance rates and productivity, as well as increasing staff retention.
Employment lawyer Rachel Ford-Evans outlines some key steps to support and maintain the wellbeing of your staff working from home:
1. Make sure that you have a Stress and Mental Wellbeing at Work policy in place, share it with your staff, and train your managers on its contents.
2. Encourage staff to make the most of your flexible working policy, and support them to work reasonably flexible hours around child-care and other commitments.
3. Encourage your staff to use their annual leave entitlement during the relevant holiday year, since well-rested staff will boost productivity at work.
4. Encourage a positive work/life balance and set a good example for your staff. For example, ask them to take rest breaks and lunch breaks away from their desks, finish the work day at a reasonable time, and switch off from work on the weekends.
5. Carry out regular performance reviews on a 1-2-1 basis, checking in with your staff on a personal level as well as a professional one.
6. Create a workplace mentoring programme to support your staff who are working from home. Allocating junior or new employees an existing staff member as a mentor can help reduce stress by creating a more supportive working environment.
7. Consider what resources you can put in place to support your staff’s mental wellbeing; for example, an Employee Assistance Programme, mental health first aiders, mental health champions, and/or a toolkit with the names and contact details of relevant organisations that can provide support.
8. Staff may not always want to open up about their struggles. However, you can still do your bit as an employer to promote good mental wellbeing at work by raising awareness of national and international health events. As well as Stress Awareness Week and World Mental Health Day, there are also events for physical conditions such as Movember, World Diabetes Day (14 November), Alcohol Awareness Week (16-22 November), and International Day of People with Disability (3 December).