How will our approach to workplace mental health change in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic?
According to fresh research from the workforce training course comparison site CoursesOnline, 66% of employees think that moving forward, more time and resources will be dedicated to mental health in the workplace due to Covid-19. This data comes from an anonymous survey of UK employees from 300 companies carried out since the 2021 New Year, which sought to identify attitudes towards mental wellbeing and how they have been shaped throughout the pandemic.
CoursesOnline is the UK arm of the Australian-based education marketing company Candlefox. Their Digital PR & SEO Outreach Manager Justin Fox has kindly provided us with this summary of the research outcomes, along with some ideas for employers looking to up their game on the mental health front.
The key findings from the CoursesOnline research were these:
66% of workers agree that mental health will benefit from greater time and resources in the long-term after Covid-19
However, 40% of workplaces are yet to implement any new mental health policies in response to the pandemic
10% of respondents stated that if they had a mental health concern, then they would not speak to anyone about it
Of the other 90%, 63% would prefer to talk things through with a friend or family member before doing so with someone at work
If you had a mental health concern today, who would be the first person that you would speak to about it?
From those surveyed who replied that they would not discuss their mental health concerns with anyone, 13% of men agreed with this statement as opposed to just 8% of women. 70% of women stated that they would turn first to friends or family and whilst most men agreed, it was only 54% who did so. 18% of men also expressed a preference for talking things through with their line manager, more so than the 8% of women who did so.
Which of the following mental health policies has your workplace implemented in response to Covid?
Of the 60% of organisations who have opted to bring in new policies to address Covid-19-related mental health issues, the most popular approaches were to assign responsibility for such matters to either an in-house or external specialist, with 18% and 19% of respondents opting for these respective approaches. There was less enthusiasm for increasing time off for employees with mental health concerns (10% of respondents) and placing a greater emphasis on existing staff/management discussions (13%).
The costs of not investing in your employees’ mental health
Speaking about the findings from their survey, CoursesOnline’s General Manager Sarah-Jane McQueen drew attention to the duty employers have to invest in their people:
For the 40% of organisations not looking to do more in regards to mental health, there is a strong business case for them rethinking their approach – not to mention that there is a clear expectation from the majority of workers that some form of action is taken. Regardless of where or how you operate, mental health issues account for a significant proportion of days off so I would think that firms would be keen to gain back some of this productivity if nothing else.
What can you do to combat mental health issues in the workplace?
Ultimately there are many different options through which organisations can look to address mental health issues and everyone will have their own preference. At the Learning People for instance, they have experimented with numerous initiatives which others may look to adopt such as:
Creating an employee wellbeing group with a wellbeing rep nominated from each team to be the wellbeing spokesperson
All members of the employee wellbeing group are Mental Health Awareness trained by Mind to ensure they know how to spot the signs of poor mental health and provide support where necessary
Participation in “Time to Talk Day” – providing conversation starter cards and cakes to all employees to raise awareness of the importance of talking to others
Regular calls with HR for all employees who are working from home and more frequent calls with those who require additional mental health support
Discounted gym and fitness schemes due to the link between good physical and mental health
Establishing operations in the UK in 2018, CoursesOnline describes itself as one of the UK’s largest marketplaces of training courses for both individuals and workforces who are looking to improve and diversify their skills. These courses cover a wide range of subjects and disciplines and in 2020 they enrolled approximately 21,000 people in courses provided by some of the top educational institutions nationwide.