How to support the mental health and wellbeing of your team as restrictions ease

The past 18 months have been difficult for everyone, with such significant changes taking a considerable toll on our collective mental health. People both with and without previous experience of mental health problems found their wellbeing deteriorating, with 60 per cent of adults saying their mental health got worse in lockdown.

As we look towards the future, now is the time to make sure each member of your team is supported. Not all employees will be feeling the same about restrictions easing. Many will be nervous about returning to work, while others will be excited about the opportunity to leave remote work behind.

So, what steps can you take to support the mental wellbeing of your team?

Spotting signs of poor mental health

Poor mental health affects an individual’s self-awareness, and a person may not even be conscious that they are acting differently. There are a number of signs that can indicate that the mental health of an employee is deteriorating. These can include:

  • Changes in standard of work and focus
  • Appearing anxious, tired or withdrawn
  • Increased absence or lateness
  • Lacking interest
  • Changes in mood and interactions
  • Changes in behaviour such as fidgeting or bad posture

If you notice any of these changes in an employee, you need to act fast. Never call out changes in behaviour in front of a team – even small comments can add pressure and be detrimental. 

Speak to your employee one to one. Keep it personal and focused on them, using tangible evidence to back up your observations. Point out changes in behaviour you’ve observed and ask if they want to talk about it. These conversations are not about putting an employee on the spot, but about showing them that you want to help and giving them a chance to open up. Always be clear about confidentiality and remember to reassure team members that you will not share anything without their permission.

Of course, if your team is still working remotely, it may be harder to spot these signs. With remote working, consistent communication is vital. If you believe a team member is experiencing mental health issues, maintain regular virtual check-ins and use video calls to keep connected.

Open communication

1 in 5 adults experienced a form of depression in early 2021. Many may have experienced bereavements or be anxious about their own health, personal circumstances, or job security. Equally, some may be dreading returning to the office, or managing workloads when operating in a hybrid work environment. For others, remote working will have led to increased loneliness and a poor work-life balance.

You must note that everyone will have had a different experience. Consistent communication will be key to supporting your team’s mental health. Begin by maintaining regular contact with your team to check in with how they’re coping and to offer your support. Consider an open-door policy and encourage your team to come and discuss any concerns they have.

Maintaining empathy when talking to employees is also crucial to supporting your team. Talking to an employee experiencing mental health issues may seem daunting, but if a team member comes to you about their mental health, it’s important to focus the conversation solely on them, not on the business.

If you notice that someone is overwhelmed, then there are professional resources that can help too. Visit Mind for more information or engage with a counselling service for the whole business to use. 

How employers can do more

As businesses return to the office, creating an inclusive workplace needs to be top of the agenda. Effective leaders should be supporting inclusive workplaces and promoting open conversations around mental health and wellbeing. Now more than ever, it is essential that employees focus on creating a work environment where employees feel able to discuss their mental health and express their core challenges and feelings.

Returning to work will be different for everyone, and the pandemic is likely to have a long-term effect on our mental health. It is time to rethink how the workplace can support employees’ mental wellbeing and start creating long-term changes which will be beneficial for all.

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