How can Surrey SMEs manage the mental health of employees during the latest Coronavirus restrictions

  • Poor mental health was already the most common cause of long-term sickness absence in UK workplaces, and no one knows just how much worse it will get due to COVID-19.
  • With large swathes of the UK in second lockdowns, SMEs need to pay extra attention to the mental health of their employees.
  • There are plenty of management techniques and other actions that can be taken to stay on top of the issue.

With so much of the UK experiencing a second lockdown this autumn, there are real concerns over the impact it will have on the mental health of employees. Despite often not having a significant inhouse HR resource, SMEs are well placed to engage with employee mental health. This is because of the close relationships forged between senior managers or owners and staff. Martine Robins from The HR Dept Woking & Guildford shares some advice on what SMEs can do to manage mental health.

Martine begins: “Mental health is personal to each individual: what some people take in their stride, may cause stress, anxiety or depression in others. Add to that, that we are all experiencing different levels of lockdown: some will still be at their place of work, others furloughed, some remote working and others made redundant. It’s clear that one size of solution does not fit all problems.

“However, there are many good practices that managers in SMEs are well placed to follow. Spotting signs of poor mental health early is invaluable for staff and the company. It is possible to get training in this, but signs could include mood changes, working long hours and out-of-character performance issues.

“Role modelling is a powerful technique, where managers visibly display good behaviours for mental health: for instance not being ‘always on’, being open in communication and taking part in company led well-being activity.

“Encouraging connection among team members is a key action. This could be through regular team video meetings as well as virtual social events. And don’t forget one-to-one reviews of workload and individual well-being. They will also be helpful.

“Look back and consider what lessons you can learn from the first lockdown.

 “This time, it’s not quite the same as the lockdown in the spring. Working parents will be relieved that the schools and nurseries are still open, but childcare will still be a lingering issue, especially when school outbreaks occur. People furloughed on 80% of their salary in the hospitality sector will miss out on tips, often crucial to their earnings over the festive period, and the cold weather and dark nights will not be any good for people’s spirits.

 “As well as the technical HR tasks you have to get right, there are many low-level but effective HR activities which you can deploy to help. An extra workplace perk like a health cash plan (which often includes access to counselling support) can cost just a few pounds a month per employee, or there a shopping discount card schemes which could help out significantly with Christmas just around the corner. It won’t be easy, but if you are unsure, advice from a company like The HR Dept can help you navigate the right path.”

For enquiries, please contact Martine Robins from The HR Dept Woking & Guildford, at martine.robins@hrdept.co.uk or on 01483 603001.

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