Last reviewed 28 October 2020

A health and safety professional body has shared three simple but key ways in which employers can manage mental health during the Covid-19 crisis.

The Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) recently noted that due to the “Covid season”, more people, regardless of their class, age, gender or race, will, during 2020, have experienced psychological distress and acute or post-traumatic stress.

This could be due to, for example, the nature of their work, concerns for vulnerable dependents, financial uncertainty, or grief from the loss of a loved one.

So, what are some of the things an organisation can do to support their workers during these difficult times? It may seem obvious, but there are three key steps.

  1. Create a safe, welcoming and stigma-free work environment. Positive culture starts with leadership messages from senior management that are reinforced throughout the management structure.

  2. Be vigilant for any signs that staff may be struggling and act if they are. Effective action may prevent them from going off sick to begin with and timely interventions can prevent more severe mental health problems and long return to work trajectories.

  3. Take a personalised approach with workers returning to work, for example, stay in regular contact while they are away and adjust return to work support to suit each individual worker.

In addition, Mary Ogungbeje, Occupational Safety and Health Research Manager at IOSH, said, “In recent months, there’s been a movement to Be Kind. I think that a good starting place is to be kind to ourselves. This should apply regardless of whether we consider ourselves to be in good or poor mental health. In practice this can mean keeping hydrated and eating well, taking proper or short and frequent breaks from work, going out for a walk, confiding in a supportive friend or a counsellor, taking some annual leave from work, watching that movie, and so on.

“We should also be kind to one another. At work, this can translate to being considerate, supportive and patient towards colleagues. Not easy when plates are spinning, and the workload is piling. But can it make a difference? Yes, it can… Be kind — to yourself and to others.”