As the Covid lockdown is eased, HR teams across the UK are busily preparing and updating social distancing and Mental Health policies. There is a lot to consider as we try to digest the full extent of the damage Covid-19 has wrought upon people’s health and the economy. But, perhaps, one of the biggest issues HR professionals are facing is how to tackle the effects of isolation on a workforce that has been sequestered at home for the best part of 3 months.
What are the effects?
The biggest cause for concern is isolation. It can incur loneliness. Particularly for furloughed employees who live alone. Another concern is stress. Particularly for those juggling childcare and home-schooling with working from home or reduced income.
These issues can impact the wellbeing and mental health of employees.
What has the employees’ response been?
It is difficult to gauge because, while employers still have a duty of care to homeworkers, many line managers will have struggled with how best to raise the subject. Sometimes, simply asking how an employee is can be enough, but some will be struggling quietly along.
What has become clear is that the lockdown has polarised workers into two, distinct groups. The first group hates working from home. The second group loves it. There seems to be very few in between.
Therefore, we thought we’d list some of the main concerns raised by HR professionals and the staff they provide services to.According to CIPD, these include:
Fears about team cohesion
Social distancing upon return to work
Managing competing priorities or childcare and working at home
How line managers should approach asking their teams ‘How are you?’ in the context of mental health
Lack of awareness of the Mental Health/Social Distancing policy at work
What can employers do to support good mental health in a remote workforce?
According to the CIPD, HR can help Line Managers to prepare for mental health disclosures. While many employees still feel uncomfortable talking about their mental health, it is important to look out for signposts. This does not mean an employee necessarily has a mental health problem. What it does mean is that they might indicate that pressures at home or feelings of isolation are beginning to get them down.
As well as circulating the company policy to staff, there is a wealth of resources online. We have listed our favourites below:
Mental Health at Work