Mental Health & COVID-19
The long-term mental health implications of COVID-19 are currently unknown, but what we do know is that there are several factors to consider. This includes the impact of lockdown and the ongoing restrictions such as social distancing measures and self-isolation, which can lead to anxiety and loneliness. For many in all sectors of the economy, there are also job security fears, and concerns as to whether employees will be able to safely return to work. Additionally, a lot of people now have a poor work-life balance, as some of us continue to work longer and/or irregular hours, whilst others combine work with home schooling and looking after children, as well as other domestic responsibilities.
In this article, we want to focus on the impact of COVID-19 on mental health and how to reduce the feelings of anxiety and stress to ensure that when more of our colleagues return to the offices, we continue to feel happy and healthy.
Returning to Work
Returning to work after any absence can cause anxiety – even when we are returning from a holiday, the thought of being back in the office and dealing with unread emails and our workloads can lead to stress for a lot of people. So returning to work post COVID-19 will be a challenge for everyone. However, it also brings us closer to a sense of familiarity, particularly when we get to interact and catch up with our colleagues and begin seeing clients again.
Anxiety & Stress
Firstly, being anxious and stressed about COVID-19 is a natural response because of how COVID-19 has threatened our health and altered our normal ways of living. Some people will have used their time on furlough to take a well-deserved break, partake in their hobbies, spend time in their gardens, or whatever else they may enjoy. Therefore, the time on furlough has offered an opportunity to look after our physical and mental health but for some of us, our mental health has been negatively impacted because of the changes and disruptions to our routines.
One of the crucial ways to reduce anxiety and stress is through connecting mental and physical health, as exercise is key to relaxing our minds. Exercise helps to detox our bodies and change our perspectives. Simply adding a few minutes’ exercise to our daily routines will help combat stress and anxiety, even just by altering your daily commute to work by getting off public transport one stop earlier and walking the rest of the way will help.
For those employees who continue to work from home, or who are furloughed, regular check-ins with colleagues and supervisors can help calm your worries and have positive impacts. The pandemic has removed the support systems we are accustomed to in work, and we have been faced with uncertainty and lack of control, so staying in touch with one another and being able to voice any concerns is important to tackle the stress and anxiety that has been raised by the uncertain times we are living in.
The last thing we want to do as an organisation is to further impact wellbeing and mental health, which is why management have spent time reviewing the set-up of all offices, preparing and reviewing risk assessments and putting measures in place – e.g. operating with limited staff in the offices to reduce contact, installing hand sanitiser stations, maintaining social distancing and operating on an appointment only basis for clients so we have safe, low risk office environments. Our overall aim is to continue with safe staffing levels within offices in the context of Government Guidance, and homeworking where appropriate, to improve organisational productivity and continue providing an efficient service to our clients.
The Mental Health First Aid Team are on hand to support employees experiencing poor mental health, particularly in relation to helping employees to regain an effective work-life balance and addressing fears about returning to work.
The pandemic has brought an opportunity for us to learn and evaluate our habits and ways of doing things. One of the biggest lessons that COVID-19 has taught us relates to community and acting for the greater good. Think of all the things (going to bars, the cinema, restaurants etc.) that you have sacrificed and given up to try and reduce the impact of the virus. This was not necessarily done for yourself, but for the benefit of society and those most vulnerable. It is also a stark reminder of how precious life is, and that we should take care of one another as best we can, even if this means being restricted in seeing our loved ones. It is worth it if we continue to be safe and well, and going forward we will be inclined to make more time to spend time with the people we love when it is safe to do so.
Thank you for taking the time to read this article. We hope it has been of some help to you.