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Supporting mental health in the new normal
August 5, 2021
Mental Health matters, and it can be crucial at work. Supporting and promoting your team’s health and wellbeing helps to create a thriving workforce. This can have a knock-on effect on efficiency, increased productivity, reduced absenteeism and decreased employee turnover. So, looking at your employees’ mental health is a no brainer from a business standpoint.
But more importantly than that, ultimately it is about caring for your workforce, and wanting them to feel at their best and supported when they might be at their worst. Ultimately this is about being human as a business.
Mental health and the pandemic
According to a survey run by mental health charity Mind, more than half of adults (60%) and over two thirds of young people (68%) have said their mental health got worse during lockdown. Their research suggests that many people who were already suffering with mental health problems saw their mental health worsen due to restrictions during the pandemic. But those without previous experience of mental health problems have also seen their mental health decline.
The Institute for Fiscal Studies found that mental health has worsened substantially (by 8.1% on average) as a result of the pandemic. Even when taking account of pre-pandemic trajectories, this makes the pandemic a mental health emergency.
Influences driving poor mental health
There are lots of aspects that can influence mental health, but during the pandemic these are the areas which appear to have affected people the most:
With isolation being mandatory at various points during the pandemic as well as many people needing to work from home, social isolation has had a big impact on mental health. Social isolation affected the levels of loneliness some have felt during this time. In the Mind survey 79% of people stated not being able to see people as the main driver of their poor mental health.
Social isolation is something that we were really aware of during home working and it’s why we at PinPoint Media introduced ‘Cuppa Tea Catch Ups’ for all of the team. These were regular timetabled sessions for the team to meet 1 on 1 to catch up and chat about whatever was on their minds.
We found these sessions to be crucial in helping the team to feel less alone as well as helping new starters to bond with other team members despite not being able to meet face to face. These regular sessions alongside our group socials via Zoom really gave the team an opportunity to get together and have fun despite being in a global pandemic.
According to the Office for National Statistics between 20 March and 30 March 2020, almost half (49.6%) of people in Great Britain reported “high” (rating 6 to 10) anxiety. The reasons for anxiety are varied.
According to Mind, 74% stated anxiety about family and friends getting coronavirus as a main driver of their poorer mental health during lockdown. The Mental Health Foundation found that in the first month of lockdown 1 in 3 (33%) of those in work worried about losing their job and almost half of those unemployed (45%) worried about having enough food to meet their household basic needs.
These job and financial fears also had a knock-on effect on housing insecurity. According to the Office for National Statistics, people who rent and the self-employed are more likely to have had their household finances and their jobs negatively impacted.
Lack of coping mechanisms
As well as presenting new or enhanced stressors, the pandemic also has affected many of the mechanisms people typically use to cope with stress. Mind found that not being able to see people (79%) and not being able to go outside (74%) were two of the main drivers of poorer mental health during lockdown.
We know that for many of our team members being able to get together and have fun is a coping mechanism. It’s why at the beginning of the pandemic we scheduled regular Zoom socials to give the team an opportunity to catch up. From quizzes to games, team members took it in turns to organise the social, giving them an opportunity to both organise and take part.
Reduced access to mental health services
As we’ve seen, many factors can influence mental health, but not having access to mental health services can be critical to those already suffering from poor mental health. Many services were already stretched with providers reporting an inability to meet the demand and the pandemic has added additional pressure.
The ‘new’ normal
Now with restrictions finally lifting, we are entering a ‘new’ normal. For many this means returning to the office and this can bring increased anxiety. From worrying about catching the virus, to coping with new rules and regulations, many people are stressed about returning to pre-lockdown working.
During lockdown many people have had a prolonged experience of isolation, which leads to additional anxiety around relearning how to socialise in a working space. With all these aspects in mind, it’s clear why we need to tread gently into this new domain.
What we are doing at PinPoint Media
We take the impact that the pandemic has had on our team’s mental health very seriously and are putting in place as many measures as possible to ensure our employees stay safe and supported during this uncertain time.
Mental Health First Aider
We have trained our first Mental Health First Aider within the company. Jessica Barder, our Senior Animation Producer, has been trained to support our team with any immediate mental health concerns in the first instance.
“As a Mental Health First Aider at PinPoint Media, I am able to identify and support colleagues that are showing signs of mental ill health. I do this by approaching the person whilst respecting their privacy and confidentiality. I listen and communicate non judgmentally, giving them information and encouraging that individual to seek either professional help or support through loved ones. I am also able to signpost that person to local community organisations and helplines. At PinPoint Media my training has already been helpful to others and the response to it has been lovely to see. We have to normalise conversations around mental ill health because it is the stigma that acts as one of the biggest barriers in someone getting the support that they need.”
Employee assistance programme
Although our Employee Assistance Programme has been in place for many years, this gives our team fully anonymous additional mental health support and signposting. It works in conjunction with the support that team members might receive from our management team and our Mental Health First Aider.
Physical team safety
Throughout the pandemic we’ve made sure that we are incredibly transparent about the rules we’ve put in place to protect our team and clients. From mask wearing to regular testing, we’ve made sure that everyone is aware of what we are doing and why.
Now that we are returning to the office, rather than decreasing these rules, we’ve increased some of the measures that we have in place. This is to ensure we are doing all we can to help the team feel safe and secure when they are in the office. From continuing our regular testing and social distanced seating, to introducing temperature checking, we have many measures in place to help protect our employees.
Flexibility for office working
Like many businesses, we learnt to work collaboratively despite many of the team working from home. So, we’ve introduced flexible working, giving our team the opportunity to work up to two days from home even when we are permanently back in the office.
This flexibility allows our employees to work in a way that suits them - making the most of the collaborative atmosphere of our office or taking advantage of time at home as and when they might need it.
It’s clear that the pandemic initially had a massive impact on mental health, but as the world opens up, we need to be aware that our team’s mental health needs to be supported now more than ever. The more assistance we can put in place now the better, to help create and sustain a healthy workforce.
With World Mental Health Day coming up on the 10th October, we want to do all we can to support our team and yours. We are already working with a number of organisations to create internal video content to share their team’s mental health stories and communicate the steps they are taking to support mental health. If this is something you are considering, get in touch with our expert team.
We’ve shared what we are doing to support our team’s mental health in this ‘new’ normal, but we’d love to know what you are doing too! Come and join us on LinkedIn to chat about mental health during this uncertain time.