How to support employee mental health in Covid-19

How to support employee mental health during Covid-19 by Ayla Verschueren on Unsplash

Working from home through the Covid lockdown winter is going to be tough, so preparing employee mental health support is a wise move

With Covid restrictions tightening for the next few months, there is a definite gloom in everyone’s heart. As a boss you’ve got even more worries, and a big one is how you can offer the right employee mental health support. This lockdown will be harsher than before: we’re all tired of working from home and going out less. But the worst part is that lockdown will now cover the winter months.

Now even our basic comforts – like taking an after work walk – will be shrouded in darkness. We know that you want to look after your employees, so let’s all be sure to pay close attention to everyone’s mental health this time around: deal?

How to spot a struggling employee

CIPD has released guidance for employers and highlighted these signs that your employees need support:

  • Working long hours / not taking breaks
  • Increased absence or lateness
  • Mood changes
  • Distraction, indecision or confusion
  • Withdrawal
  • Irritability, anger or aggression
  • Uncharacteristic performance issues
  • Over-reaction to issues
  • Disruptive or anti-social behaviour

CIPD also guided employers to be careful – if you’re seeing one of these ‘signs’ in your employee’s behaviour it doesn’t necessarily mean they’re having mental health issues. These are loose guidelines that should prompt you to reach out to offer support, not a diagnosis.

But how can you pick these up in your morning meeting? It’s hard to gauge the mood of every person in a Zoom call when you have to dash off within 20 minutes.

We recommend that you hold more meetings – I know! Boring! But it can be really valuable to book in some quality one-to-one time with all of your employees. Take some time to:

  • Book in an hour-long weekly meeting with any co-workers going through something big. Whether it’s personal or professional, taking some time to catch up will help them offload their worries and help you stay in the loop.
  • Book in a regular social call with your team. Whether you meet in person for some socially distanced drinks or chat over video call, everyone will enjoy the down time. These ‘meetings’ will also help you get to know your team on a personal level. Hopefully this means that you will be better equipped to support them, too.
How to support employee mental health during Covid-19

What support can you offer?

It’s a good idea to have support available before you start to worry about someone. This way, they have the tools to help themselves if they can. Arrange a meeting to go over:

  • How your employees can come forward with issues. Stress that you really care about their personal and professional wellbeing by encouraging them to arrange a call with you – or one of their co-workers – any time.
  • Resources that offer mental health advice. This means going off and discovering legitimate sources that offer advice on dealing with stress, depression, anxiety and other specialised issues like PTSD, schizophrenia and ME.

What to cover

  • Essential resources: action plans and hotlines.
  • How to book in a call: would you prefer a video call or a phone call?
  • What you can offer: days off, flexible hours, holiday time or annual leave. If your employee has no more holiday time left, please be flexible. Doctors can issue statutory time off anyway, so be kind and offer it before your co-worker has to go above your head to get the time off they need.
  • Empathy: don’t be afraid to drop the no-nonsense boss persona.
  • A gentle touch: if your employee takes some time off, continue to offer help when they’re back.

Offering the right employee mental health support during Covid-19 can be a big challenge. While you’re looking out for their mental health, check in with yourself too. Being a boss is hard work.

If you’re looking for more support, check out our employer blog. And if you’re looking to grow your team, sign up to DigitalGrads to post your job advert and get to hiring.