Jodie Hill, Managing Director and Solicitor from multi-award winning Thrive Law shares with us her expertise during "Mental Health Awareness Week".


Is the workplace about to face a Tsunami of mental illness after lockdown?

Whilst many people report that their mental health had got worse since the pandemic, let’s be real and acknowledge that we were already in a global mental health epidemic.

With that in mind, many psychiatrists are predicting a surge of people coming forward with new or deteriorating mental health conditions.

What can employers do?

Effective communication is key. Talking to your employees and keeping them up to date on the latest government guidance where it impacts on your business, in addition to ‘checking in’ with them. It’s a difficult balance with communication in the workplace; some would prefer not to talk about the virus or concerns they have, whilst others might find it helpful to voice their concerns and may gain some reassurance from finding out others are also worried.

As an employer or manger you should ensure you consider everyones concerns and make sure that no-ones health is being damaged by the virtual conversations taking place on this topic within your teams. It is important to encourage your employees to talk things through with you. If they do not feel comfortable doing so, suggest to them to speak with someone they feel more at ease with rather than bottling it up.

Currently we are all surrounded by uncertainty.

Your employees are uncertain about their jobs, you have concerns about your business, future plans and holidays are being rearranged, finances and the future impact on the business going forward; this is why effective communication and regular updates are essential, especially as we aren’t seeing one another face to face.

But the way we communicate and how often we do this is also of paramount importance. We have to replace office conversations and find new ways of working so that people feel sufficiently supported, but not micro managed. So that they feel like they are still working as part of a team but not overwhelmed with 200 video calls a week on 10 different platforms. Finding the balance here is key and the best way to achieve this is by speaking to your staff and gaining their insights on how best to do this as it will vary between individuals.

Employers should ensure they have effectively communicated their Mental Health Policies and that all staff know how to get in touch with Mental Health First Aiders/Champions and appropriate professionals should be signposted to all staff so they know what to do if they need help.

Wellbeing Risk Assessments
We hear talk of DSE assessments and home working risk assessments but we must also consider conducting wellbeing assessments; our mental health is just as important as our physical health and doing these assessments allows us to check in with staff in a consistent and measured approach across the whole team.

All of my team complete this every 3 month and each employee gets a self-care report of how they can improve their own wellbeing (it actually also includes physical and mental health as well as energy levels and much more!). The assessment we use is completely anonymous meaning the staff are really open and they love getting their personalised report to assist them.

This is so important now people are home working. The last time we completed these was when we were in the office but the challenges are different now with many really struggling with the extended lockdown we need to understand the needs of each of our employees so that we can support them all in the right way at this difficult time.

As an employer, we get a company report which identifies the main causes of stress, assesses if anyone is suffering with anxiety and depression, but it goes wider to musculoskeletal and immune system too. This allows the business to then focus on where the training and support is required for their team. This will have shifted massively from only 2 months ago so we highly recommend you assess the needs before investing in training so that you target the real needs of your team in an effective manner.

If anyone would like me to introduce you to the company who we use just email me I would be happy to make an email introduction.

This is Me
Another way employers can really engage their staff when it comes to mental health, with mental health we round the corner they can engage in This is Me.

This is Me, led by the Lord Mayors Appeal in London, is a pioneering campaign to reduce stigma and dispel myths around mental health in the workplace. The goal is to improve awareness and understanding of wellbeing in order to create safer and more supportive working environments. Since it’s launch in London on World Mental Health Day 2016 This is Me has grown with teams now in the regions of the North West, West Midlands, Scotland and late 2020 it will launch in Yorkshire, me as the chair for Yorkshire.

There is an appetite for change and the time is right for businesses to collaborate, raise awareness of mental health and wellbeing and reduce stigma in the workplace. In less unusual times, people could share their support and help to #EndTheStigma around mental health by wearing a green ribbon during Mental Health Awareness Week. This is Me have adapted this and in lockdown you could show support by having a virtual green ribbon on your email signature. Wearing the green ribbon or using it in your email signature creates a visible movement of support for ending the stigma. It shows those struggling that there is support and that they are not alone, encouraging each other to share their story to create inclusive workplace cultures.

The This is Me Storytelling campaign asks you/your employees to make a short video talking about their own mental health and about themselves as a person – to dispel myths and reduce the stigma around mental health and crucially to raise awareness of the importance of wellbeing. This could be really effective whilst people are furlough or home working as it’s a consistent messages that all employees can access knowing they are not alone and helping dispel the stigma attached to talking about mental ill health in many workplaces.

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