A Signposting Guide
Mental Health at Work are a Community Interest Company with a mission to improve working lives by influencing attitudes and behaviours around mental health. This guide has been collated to support an organisations workplace mental health programmes. If you would like to know more about how Mental Health at Work can build and implement a customised programme for your organisation please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit us
Introducing Mental Health at Work
We are a community interest company with proven expertise around workplace mental health. Our mission is to improve working lives by influencing attitudes and behaviours towards mental health.
We’ve been working across organisations in the Uk and beyond since 2015 and became a subsidiary of the Mental Health Foundation in 2017. We develop customised programmes build around a framework was developed for the workplace; focusing exclusively on what the workplace needs to know in order to understand, manage and promote mental health.
Our approach is centred on virtual or face-to-face facilitated workshops, complemented by e-learning.
We provide a unique approach which drives lasting change
Tips for Home and Remote Working
Getting Into A Routine
Working from home or remotely can be very challenging and isolating. Sometimes our attention wanders, or we miss people.
A structured day can be a good way to address this:
• Designate a place to work that is as free of distractions as you can make it.
• Set a routine for working at home – it’s important to get up and get started, to take regular breaks including a lunch break, and to finish working and turn off at an appropriate time.
• Try and set clear tasks for the day – three major decisions or activities is a good day’s work. One great tip we heard was to have a WEB list – W – what you want to achieve – E – what you expect to achieve – and B – what you had Better achieve that day. Use your diary to clearly say to others when you are working and when you are available to speak.
• When you are done for the day, pack away your work things or leave your work area at the end of the day
Keep Up The Formal And Social Flow Of Work
It’s really important that structured and unstructured connections with work and colleagues carry on whilst people are working remotely or flexibly.
• If you are a manager, discuss with your teams how you’d like to run supervision, check-ins, and sign-offs remotely. Let people know how and when to contact you.
• Try to use video for all formal discussions and any discussions where you are checking in on someone’s well-being – the non-verbal communication is key for this.
• If a new starter joins your team during this period, try to take time off your workflow. Acknowledge they’re not starting under ideal circumstances and this might stress them out on top of the common stress of wanting to demonstrate their skills and fit for the new job.
• Try and keep a separation between work and personal – think for example before connecting with colleagues you wouldn’t ordinarily link with on things like Facebook and respect the boundaries people have between work and home life.
Click here for more tips about looking after your mental health during the Coronavirus
Use The Support That Is Available
This is a challenging time for all of us – and whether we are at work or not many employers provide support.
• Many employers offer Employee Assistance Programmes and wider benefits. Use these wherever you need.
• If you have ongoing health or mental health conditions, even if they aren’t disclosed, your employer has a duty to make reasonable adjustments. In this case, this could include home working, additional support from managers, or equipment.
• If you have self-care techniques that work for you, try and make sure that you have what you need. You may need to think differently – for example, doing exercise workouts from YouTube or Zoom instead of attending classes.
IT & Technology
For many of us, IT and technology will be a lifeline during a period when our working patterns will change. It can be quite an adjustment though to do a lot online, and we aren’t all tech geniuses.
• Ask for help with IT – from IT department and from colleagues. Wherever possible try and use equipment provided by work – but if there’s no alternative most conference software can also be used on mobiles and tablets.
• If you’d check in with colleagues in person in the office – check-in with them virtually as well – whether by video or by call/email.
• Try and keep your work channels clear for work topics – but create social channels too on your intranet or messenger tool. Have a space where people can shoot the breeze or share pet pictures without talk of the virus – and have a separate space where people can find updates about policies and procedures relating to the outbreak.
Mental Health Foundation has developed a dedicated hub about all aspects of mental health during the pandemic. The charity has been assisting Public Health England on developing national mental health guidelines and has reached over 1m people with tips through social media since mid-March. MHF has launched a new research project to help understand the mental health impacts of coronavirus. Access the Hub here.
Tips for Employers and Leaders
Share reputable sources and follow official advice
Try not to share or encourage employees to share other articles and information. There are a lot of media and social media discussions that are based on rapidly evolving fields of research. It is best to stick to reliable sources for official communications.
Consider Who Needs Information And When
You may have a group at work who are planning how your workplace will manage during the outbreak. If so, remember to consider carefully who needs to be involved in that planning and when to minimise gossip and/or anxiety.
Talk To Your People
You could keep in regular, possibly daily, contact with your people – both the general population and with managers and supervisors. Team huddles or check-ins work well on video, but try to keep numbers at a level where you can see everyone.
Try to be honest, authentic and sincere in what you say. Start by acknowledging the uncertainty and the anxiety it causes. Be prepared to say that you don’t know and that you will come back to people with answers.
This is important whether people are in the workplace or at home. Make sure that alongside regular communication with all staff, you also communicate with line managers. They are the main contact between an organisation and its people and if you want to achieve consistently applied policies and advice, they may need more information than you give to all staff.
Everyone Has Mental Health – Consider The Impact This Has Across The Board
We all have mental health and whatever our circumstance this outbreak is going to have an impact on how we think and feel about ourselves and the world we live in. Good work is great for our mental health and it’s important that we preserve the opportunity to enjoy the benefits of work wherever we can.
Some people are at greater risk of poor mental health. When you plan your response, consider how it affects staff with protected characteristics (sex, age, disability, race, sexual orientation etc.) or other challenges (e.g. how people from Asian or Italian backgrounds may be facing discriminatory behaviours) – and adjust accordingly. Try to act in a way that protects the physical and mental health of staff – starting with those who are at greatest need.
Remember Vulnerability Has Many Faces
There is a lot of talk of physical vulnerabilities in relation to the coronavirus. But senior managers will feel vulnerable too in demonstrating leadership in unusual circumstances. Help each other stay composed by encouraging and reminding how good a job they’re doing.
This can be a particularly difficult time for people with pre-existing or past mental health problems. Staying at home may be bringing back memories of bad times for people who have experienced depression or trauma. Know your people and do a little extra for those who are more vulnerable if you notice changes in their behaviour. These circumstances might lead people to disclose mental health problems they have previously not discussed at work. Treat new disclosures with respect and compassion and make adjustments.
Promote Access To Support
You may provide access to support services through your workplace – if you do, make sure these are advertised well and find out whether there are specific resources relating to the outbreak.
Make sure people also know where they go and who they talk to internally. If you have Mental Health Champions, Allies or Mental Health First Aiders make sure they have the latest information. If you change working practices try to ensure that this network of mental health support carries on if possible.
Use Technology For Work And Social Aspects Of Work
Provide equipment and support for staff to use technology to keep in touch with each other, with colleagues and with their managers. Offer advice for those not used to working in this way – perhaps with a buddy scheme to gain confidence.
Encourage people to maintain informal conversations too if they are working virtually. You may have an instant messenger or intranet like Slack or MS Teams – but text messages and calls work as well. You could also try video call lunches and coffee chats and virtual birthday celebrations. A daily check-in with teams and direct reports, with weekly manager briefings, is a good idea.
See Opportunities For Growth And Development Alongside Crisis Planning
Consider whether there are tasks that you can do if regular business is disrupted – planning, staff development and catching up on admin jobs are all possible things that can be done that increase your readiness to resume business as usual later. If you are able, you could support local food banks and connect staff to volunteering opportunities and community support schemes if appropriate.
Encourage Personal Planning And Self-Care
Encourage your people to plan for how they will manage under self-isolation or quarantine. Check our regularly updated advice, and encourage people to discuss their plans with line managers. If people are at home social distancing or self-isolating with symptoms keep in touch. If you put on virtual social events for staff – like a virtual book-group or a daily creative challenge or puzzle, make sure all of your people are included
Useful Links And Resources
- Public Health England – Coronavirus Guidance Find guidance about coronavirus (COVID-19) for health professionals and other organisations.
- Mental Health Foundation – How to look after your mental health during the Coronavirus outbreak. Various topics of information related to COVID-19 including general mental health tips, working tips, nurturing relationships, finance, housing and unemployment advice.
- NHS – Every Mind Matters – Mental Wellbeing while staying at home – PHE’s Every Mind Matters, developed in collaboration with the Mental Health Foundation, gives guidance on how to develop a personalised plan for supporting your Mental Health.
- WHO – Mental Health Considerations during COVID19 Outbreak – Considerations, developed by the WHO Department of Mental Health and Substance Use as a series of messages that can be used to support mental and psychosocial well-being in different target groups during the outbreak.
- Mind – Coronavirus: supporting yourself and your team – Workplace Mental Health
- Advice from Mind’s Head of Workplace Wellbeing on supporting yourself and you team during the coronavirus pandemic.
- CIPD COVID-19 Support Materials – Download practical materials including template policies, letters and a checklist, to assist your response to the coronavirus (COVID-19).
- Mental Health at Work – Coronavirus and isolation: Supporting yourself and your colleagues – Mind’s Mental Health at Work website have developed a toolkit with various reputable resources.
- The Wellness Society – Coronavirus Anxiety Workbook – A comprehensive workbook to help build resilience during difficult times, developed by The Wellness Society. It includes a plethora of reputable resources.