Mental Health First Aiders and the Return to Work

As lockdown restrictions are lifted and employees begin to return to work provisions will be made to protect their physical health; But have you considered how you will protect your staffs mental health?

Employees are bound to feel nervous about returning and the mental health implications shouldn’t be under-estimated. Even with visible protective measures in the workplace – Perspex screens, hand sanitising stations, facemasks – many will have to negotiate a busy commute or make provision for childcare – perhaps adding to financial burdens as well as mental ones.

For many home-based working has been a positive experience. Consumer intelligence firm Toluna and Harris Interactive recently surveyed 598 employees across the UK. 90% of workers said they felt just as self-disciplined or more since working from home and 61% said they felt just as productive, if not more so, compared to their normal place of work before the COVID-19 crisis.

The same study also showed that whilst the majority of responders were happy with the provisions put in place by their employers for home-based working, anxiety and uncertainty were underlying themes. As offices reopen 25% said they would feel less anxious if employers provided more communication on HR issues such as working arrangements, partial employment and unpaid leave.

The current situation lends itself perfectly to the adoption of Mental Health First Aiders. These are visible, designated, senior members of staff who take responsibility for ‘checking in’ with employees and recognising areas of concern and stress.

By encouraging positive support that starts with senior members of staff it sets the example to everyone in the organisation that mental health awareness is being taken seriously and gives people the confidence to talk openly.

Plus, the most senior members of a team have the most costly impact on an organisation if they suffer poor mental health. Equipping them with the skills to manage their mental health offers the greatest ROI.

Mental Health First Aiders also have an important role to play for the staff who still can’t return safely to the workplace because of physical risk or furlough, ensuring they aren’t forgotten as everyone tries to establish a sense of normality and move the economy forward.