Employers urged to step up mental health support for staff

COVID-19 is putting a huge strain on employers and individuals, leading to a heavier burden on mental health, report cautioned.
By: | April 7, 2020
Topics: News

Managers today lack the empathy or skill to address mental health issues among their staff, a situation exacerbated by the COVID-19 outbreak. A new report by the UK’s CIPD and Simplyhealth found that only 31% of managers are thought to have the confidence to have sensitive discussions around mental health and signpost staff to expert sources of help.

Richard Gillies, chief operating officer at Simplyhealth, said, “During these challenging times, it is important that leaders and managers continue to ensure that people feel looked after by their employers to help them engage, be productive and continue to have the best quality of working life possible. Having regular, open, and two-way conversations with your team is vital to protect the mental and physical health of your employees.”

Fear of infection and feeling isolated, along with concerns about job or income loss arising from COVID-19, are putting employees at serious risk of mental ill health during and after COVID-19, the report warned. About 60% of organisations surveyed reported an increase in common mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression among employees over the last year.

With remote working being increasingly introduced, managers may also face a bigger challenge in picking up cues that their colleagues are struggling. Thus, it is imperative that managers check in regularly with their team and make use of video calls to create personal interactions, advised Rachel Suff, well-being adviser at the CIPD.

“Employers also need to remember that their duty of care for people’s health and safety carries on no matter where staff are based,” she added. “This pandemic presents a real threat to people’s mental, as well as physical, health and employers need to think about both when putting in place plans to protect their workforce.”

The CIPD and Simplyhealth survey recommended employers to support and guide their managers so that they feel equipped to have sensitive and supportive discussions with staff. Employers should also remind managers about the importance of communicating regularly with their team and asking how they are, and encourage staff to practise self-care such as a healthy routine for diet, sleep and relaxation. Lastly, employers should promote their existing health and well-being benefits and support, for example signposting people to their counselling helpline.