For happy industries where the business impact of Covid-19 has been minimal or has actually improved their circumstances. In this case, they may have had to hire more capacity or simply continue to support existing workers to get them back to work just cannot be on their agenda. Unfortunately for many employers this has not been the case and they may experience the various stages of worker return to work or, in the case of training, the return of staff and students to their school environment. Some companies have agreed new ways of working that use “home work” more often than before Covid, but others are inevitably requiring their employees to return to their previous place of work.
There will be a lot of testing and preparation for employers, some of which may have transferable experience, but it will be uncharted territory for many. The challenges that workers, and therefore their employers, may face include:
- Redundancy fears (whether or not there is a risk)
- Fears about the virus, e.g. Use of public transport, reconnection with customers, students and / or service users and other colleagues.
- Concerns that the employer may not have adequate safety practices and / or expanded concerns about the safety of those they care for, e.g. Schoolchildren or vulnerable people
- Fears of moving away from what has become their “safe place” at home and moving back to work and everything that goes with it
- Fears of remembering how to do things, e.g. The use of software, systems and tasks may have tightened even further among employees who were unfamiliar with them or the business when Covid-19 began.
Unfortunately, fear can become endless, contagious, sometimes self-fulfilling and, for many, very disabling. It is important to intervene and provide support at the earliest possible opportunity to prevent the risk of anxiety worsening, crisis, and spread.
Employers alike have their own fears, concerns, and challenges regarding the company and their employees, including:
- How you can effectively support employees and help them to cope with their fears and their own fears!
- Assisting stamina rebuilding to avoid burnout in people returning from vacation, especially long vacation periods which may now approach 6 months or more
- Support for employees who may have developed a bad mental illness in the past few months or whose pre-existing mental illness has returned. This can lead to increased mental and physical health of the entire workforce
- Assisting employees who have suffered losses during this time, related to Covid-19 or otherwise
- Assisting employees who may now be facing difficulties such as increased alcohol use and addiction, financial or debt problems, or other difficulties that may have developed and are now also a business risk
- Integration of new employees who the company may have hired during Covid-19, who may not have crossed the threshold in the workplace or have met colleagues in person.
I think most of us will be familiar with the challenges schools and educational environments face that have been well publicized in the media over the past few months. Like other jobs, they have a non-exhaustive list of challenges:
- How to ensure safety in schools while meeting educational needs / goals and catching up on lost time. The pressure to ensure that we do not have a lost generation of children when it comes to education is enormous!
- Communicate and talk about the virus with children and adolescents in an age-appropriate manner
- Increase in attachment problems in children and adolescents
- Increase in anxiety among children, employees and parents / carers.
And for many of us there is also an awareness that Covid-19 has continued to grow and exposed the social ills in our society such as inequality, domestic violence, isolation, poverty, substance abuse and many others. These, of course, affect our workplaces, schools and communities in many different ways, and it is likely that increased management and support in these areas in society and within services will be required for a long time to come.
Where do we all start? We all have to do some hard work to ensure that needs are met in the best possible way, including our own needs, for which each of us has a personal responsibility and, in many cases, responsibility for the needs of other people. Part of that responsibility is to support and encourage adaptation to our facilities and workplaces, or where “home work” is the new norm, and to help people get back to business and work when they leave return there. Vacation ”, be it“ work at home ”or actually“ work at work ”.
The key to effective support is to first understand the person’s fears and needs because they are so individual. What is scary for one person may be different for the next. Adults and children share similar fears, but also very different ones. It starts with talking about them instead of them remaining the “elephant in the room” and really listening so we can really understand. From this we can work with adults and children to take action. In terms of mental health, we can draw on our experience of making reasonable adjustments outside of Covid-19. For example, when we use a gradual return to restore employee stamina, as we would if the absence were due to illness, which in fact might be the case now – if we are not working it puts our mental and spiritual levels at risk physical health, and the longer we are unemployed the longer the risk increases. We can also use additional oversight and 1-2-1 sessions, use tools and best practices for getting back to work planning, and making sure the effects of Covid-19 are on the agenda of every team meeting or woven into all agenda items until there no longer has to be such a platform – a time we all want to see! Some people may feel that they do not have sufficient skills or knowledge about anxiety, anxiety, or mental illness to provide effective support. Therefore, knowledge of mental health conversations with adults and children may be required – this is what you may want to become an adult or adolescent mental health first responder or train your managers in mental health support on their teams, or simply use awareness programs, to improve mental health literacy throughout the workforce. This then forms a protective factor for people on an individual level.
Managing our employees’ wellbeing is not about a free gym membership or a bowl of fruit, but about our values, management practices, the ability of managers and teams to support one another and feel able to support themselves if necessary. We can also promote these instruments among our children and young people so that they can help each other. We need to be aware of mental health, our own and that of others, and what to do when faced with mental health problems. Whether they are natural and understandable fears related to Covid-19 or a diagnosed anxiety disorder, people need support for both, and skills and tools are available to make them happen.
Here are some helpful tools, links, and pointers that we at Mind Matters have found helpful to our customers:
ACAS: Advice on Coronavirus (Covid-19) for employers and employees https://www.acas.org.uk/coronavirus
British Chambers: Employer & Employee Support https://www.britishchambers.org.uk/page/employer-and-employee-support
CIPD: Advice on Coronavirus (Covid-19) for UK employers https://www.cipd.co.uk/knowledge/fundamentals/emp-law/health-safety/coronavirus-factsheet
Time to change: helping someone during Covid-19 https://www.time-to-change.org.uk/coronavirus
Every Mind Matters / NHS https://www.nhs.uk/oneyou/every-mind-matters/
FRANK: Honest information about drugs https://www.talktofrank.com/
Hub of Hope https://hubofhope.co.uk/
MIND: Coronavirus and your wellbeing https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/coronavirus/coronavirus-and-your-wellbeing/
Mind Matters “Get Support Now” https://www.mindmatterstraining.co.uk/get-support-now/
NHS volunteers https://nhsvolunteerresponders.org.uk/services
SHOUT for support in a crisis https://www.giveusashout.org/
Anna Freud National Center for Children and Families: Coronavirus Support https://www.annafreud.org/coronavirus-support/
Child Representative: Guide for Children on Coronavirus https://www.childrenscommissioner.gov.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/cco-childrens-guide-to-coronavirus.pdf
Childline Calm Zone https://www.childline.org.uk/toolbox/calm-zone/
Childline Kids (content for U12) https://www.childline.org.uk/kids
British International Schools Council: Covid-19 International School Support https://www.cobis.org.uk/schools/useful-links/school-closure
Educational Support – 5 Tips for Self-Sufficiency During Coronavirus: Teachers and Educational Staff https://www.educationsupport.org.uk/resources/top-tips/5-tips-look-after-yourself-during-coronavirus-teachers- educational staff? gclid = Cj0KCQjw7ZL6BRCmARIsAH6XFDJQVEgnRKDy-8qMouAvO2jbGdQNwqkKN6mbDwbZA4aJfufCWuK85gsaAo6QEALw_wcB
The key for school principals: Covid-19 Resource Center: Run your school during Coronavirus https://schoolleaders.thekeysupport.com/leading-your-virtual-school-during-coronavirus-covid-19/
Time to change: get involved in schools https://www.time-to-change.org.uk/get-involved/schools
Young minds: Supporting your students through the Covid-19 pandemic https://youngminds.org.uk/resources/school-resources/supporting-your-pupils-through-the-covid-19-pandemic/