Although we’re all getting used to changed working conditions, it’s important that as an employer or manager, you remain mindful of the mental health challenges your people may be facing as lockdown restrictions continue.

During Mental Health Awareness Week (18-24 May) this year, the theme is “acts of kindness”. Kindness can create a sense of belonging and prevent feelings of isolation – incredibly important as many people are working from home and miss the social interaction with their colleagues.

For employers, taking proactive steps to address mental health in the ‘workplace’, and encouraging acts of kindness, can help maintain and improve employee wellbeing. So how can you be a “kind” employer? Here are some tips from our team.

Communicate well

Checking in with your team regularly and communicating any changes to the working arrangement is essential. Your team might be concerned with the future of their job, or worried about returning to work. It can only make anxieties worse if you do not communicate what you know, so always provide clear updates and be available for one-to-one chats with employees.

Any news about coronavirus can be overwhelming, so be sure to keep in touch with each person and not just talk about the crisis or their work. Updating each other on your personal lives, in a team setting or one on one will create an open environment and encourage your team to talk about their mental health.

Signpost support

Make sure your team know of the support the business offers – if you have an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) or Wellness Action Plans, continue to use them and make sure everyone knows where to find useful resources or feels confident to ask for them.

You might think about offering webinars on mindfulness or training sessions to help line managers in supporting their teams. Being open and honest with your employees about mental health lets them know they are not alone.

Be mindful

Be mindful that certain individuals may be more effected by everything going on right now. Look out for the signs of stress and anxiety, an employee may seem withdrawn and lack the motivation to work. Working from home can be particularly tough if staff are picking up extra work or lack the communication with their line manager. To protect your team against work-related stress, read our guide for answers to the most common questions we hear from employers around stress.

Encourage balance

Being at home and away from the routine of work can lead to unhealthy working habits, such as working longer hours, or picking up emails on the weekends and evenings. This can lead to stress and anxiety in the long run. Reassure your team that it’s not about the hours they put in but the work they produce, make sure they take regular breaks and have a daily routine involving something they enjoy. Our team have put together their top tips for working from home – download here and share with your team!

Get involved

Helping others is a proven way of boosting your mental health. At this time, being kind to others can help people feel connected, have a more positive outlook on life and lead to more kindness! As an employer, you could encourage your team to volunteer for a local community organisation, take part in a challenge for a charity or check-in with a neighbour or friend. Set up something you can all do together, like a virtual quiz that raises money for a good cause. This is a great way to stay in touch with your team and make them feel happy.

Going back to work

After seven weeks in lockdown, people who are unable to work from home have been told they can go back to their jobs. Employers will need to be sensitive to those with ‘Coronaphobia’ – staff may be unwilling to commute on public transport or work in close proximity with their team. Be empathetic and flexible and don’t expect too much from employees straight away. It’s also vital that you have a robust wellbeing programme in place for when you return to work. Read more about how you can prepare for work after lockdown here.

Employers should remember that they have the responsibility for the health and wellbeing of their employees, no matter where they are working. We advise that you make good use of the support your business offers and remind line managers of the importance of communication as it is currently more difficult to pick up that your team may be struggling. Try to interact as much as possible.

We can offer guidance with the implementation of policies and training, such as Wellness Action Plans, to support mental health and wellbeing. If you’d like some support, please contact us at info@realityhr.co.uk