New guidance on mental health during the pandemic
Workplace expert ACAS has published new guidance to help employees manage their mental health at work during the coronavirus pandemic.
A new ACAS-commissioned YouGov survey conducted during lockdown has found that nearly two out of five employees working from home felt stressed, anxious or experienced mental health difficulties due to their working situation. The poll also found that:
- One in two people working from home felt isolated; and
- Seven in ten felt that they were missing social interactions with others at work.
ACAS Chief Executive, Susan Clews, said:
"Many employees are working from home for the first time during this pandemic and it is clear from our poll that it is a very stressful or anxious experience for many people.
"The coronavirus lockdown has created lots of extra challenges such as a lack of social contact with work colleagues, feeling alone, trapped or struggling with childcare responsibilities. There's also a real anxiety around the impact of the virus itself, job security concerns whilst on furlough and genuine worries around whether it is safe to physically return back to their workplace.
"Our new coronavirus mental health advice covers all of these different workplace situations and offers practical advice on how workers, managers and bosses can support their colleagues during this difficult time."
ACAS's new advice is clear that we all need to look after our mental wellbeing and offers some practical steps to take, including:
- stay in contact with people – talk to colleagues or friends about how you’re feeling;
- have a routine – so you plan in advance what you’ll be doing each day;
- keep active and exercise; and
- make time for activities you enjoy.
People working from home may feel isolated. ACAS's top suggestions on how to help include:
- talking to your manager about hours and when to take breaks;
- discussing what kind of contact you’d like, possibly more video or phone calls;
- mix up work so that it involves calls with other staff; and
- plan coffee breaks into your routine with other staff to keep in touch.
There has been some initial easing of lockdown measures which has prompted some anxiety around safety and a physical return to work. Employers have a 'duty of care' towards their staff, which means they must do all they reasonably can to support employees' health, safety and wellbeing. This includes:
- making sure the working environment is safe;
- protecting staff from discrimination; and
- carrying out risk assessments.
ACAS's full advice includes practical steps for employees, managers and employers to help everyone's mental health during this difficult time.
See the coronavirus and mental health at work advice.
This week is also Mental Health Awareness Week (18-24 May) and, in line with the current situation, the theme is kindness.
Mark Rowland, Chief Executive of the Mental Health Foundation, which hosts the week, said:
“Now more than ever, we need to re-discover kindness in our daily lives. We want to use Mental Health Awareness Week to celebrate the thousands of acts of kindness that are so important to our mental health. And we want to start a discussion on the kind of society we want to shape as we emerge from this pandemic.
“Kindness unlocks our shared humanity and is central for our mental health. It has the potential to bring us together with benefits for everyone, particularly at times of great stress. One thing we have seen all over the world is that kindness is prevailing in uncertain times, helping people to connect and communities to cope with the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
“Kindness is also a vital way we can help support the millions of people who were experiencing mental health problems long before the pandemic started. The research clearly supports this – it shows that acts of kindness can help improve emotional wellbeing. This is true whether we are giving or receiving it.”
Find out more at www.mentalhealth.org.uk/campaigns/mental-health-awareness-week