How to support employee mental health post lockdown

Employee mental health is now a huge topic.  It has come to light even more during the pandemic and lockdown period.

As lockdown eases and people start to return to the office, it is to be expected that there will be some unease from employees. Interestingly, research consistently shows that over 50% of workers are ‘uncomfortable’ about returning to the office. This stems from COVID-19 anxiety and fears around travelling to and from the workplace via public transport. Also, there is also a preference for more flexible working arrangements.  Therefore, employees are reassessing their relationship with the workplace.

As well as all this, factor in the stress and isolation of long months working from home.  It’s clear that supporting employees and their mental health is an increasing need of the ‘new normal’.

Actionable steps to support employee mental health

As employees return to the office, facilities management play a role in minimising any anxiety. Create effective social distancing and hygiene measures that are easily actioned.  This will play a role in helping to reduce their fears.

Create a supportive and healthy work environment. Produce safety protocols that are clear and effective and communicate these to employees.  Create safeguards for their own self-protection and those of others.

Assessing the workplace

For FM professionals, reviewing the workplace and implementing new guidelines is a critical part of supporting workers to feel confident in the return to the office. Communicate the COVID preparedness of the workplace clearly to returning employees.

The office space may need a deep clean, with a focus on multi-touch surfaces. You may need to adjust the layout of the workspace to observe social distancing and ensure that interactions between employees and clients promote safety and trust.

Make sure that supplies of paper towels, hand gel and PPE if necessary are in place. Reassure employees that basic hygiene measures are taken care of.  This goes a long way to alleviate the worry associate with staying safe in a busy office.

Connect with vulnerable staff

The official government advice is that there is no need for individuals to self-isolate at the moment.  However, the situation can change at any time. Official guidance says that vulnerable adults can return to their workplace if it’s COVID-secure.  But they should still work from home if possible.

Individuals who are vulnerable and have been self-isolating are at particular risk of feelings of isolation and loneliness. Other employees who have lost relatives, friends or colleagues may not be in a robust emotional state to return to work.

Organisations should be prepared to offer distanced forms of counselling and therapy via telephone, email or video. These wellness options should offer privacy and flexibility to employees who wish to access them.

Connectivity is another issue for those still working from home. Facilities management need to risk assess the situation.  You also need to put in place appropriate measures like virtual water coolers so teams stay connected.

Effective emotional support is critical

Lockdown has affected different people in different ways. It’s important to assess the levels of anxiety and mental wellbeing in individual employees and teams. Hold one-to-one and/or team meetings before the return to work so issues and concerns can be communicated.

This helps to reassure employees that their worries around their mental and physical wellbeing are being taken seriously.

Ongoing emotional support and COVID defence plans will be critical in the months ahead, so start now to support the mental and physical wellbeing of your employees in the post lockdown world.

You can find more information and guidance on the Government website here:
or visit our blog update on Mental Health Awareness Week