Ed Dickinson: Addressing the causes of poor employee mental health

The impact of Covid-19 has had an unprecedented impact on employee wellbeing. While there have been some positive effects, the negative impacts pose both legal and commercial risks. Productivity drops while disputes rise. Proactivity is key to tackling such threats.

The most obvious risks relate to health and safety, and discrimination. Navigating the return to work must involve risk assessments which assess different groups including the ‘vulnerable’ who are potentially disabled under the Equality Act.

Return-to-work plans should involve consultation with employees and pilot schemes utilised to address any potential issues. Procedures for reporting concerns should be in place and employees must be reminded of safe practices to alleviate concerns. Ensuring that return-to-work plans do not disadvantage certain protected groups is a must.

Employers should address the root causes of poor mental health; fear of contracting the virus, bereavement and grief, lack of job security and isolation can all contribute to a decline in employee wellbeing.

Where possible, employees need to communicate with staff about how the business is finding ways to ensure jobs are kept safe to ensure peace of mind. Employers can video call staff purely for wellbeing purposes, as well as implement support structures for those suffering with grief.

An employer can introduce inclusive virtual social activities to boost team morale, ensure homeworkers have comfortable workstations, provide wellbeing-focused benefits, such as mindfulness and exercise app subscriptions, and above all be flexible.

Due to Covid-19, the workplace is changing; employees may start working from home when they wish, provided there is a clear line of communication. The typical working day may move from nine-to-five, towards an agile day based on mutual circumstances, for example, employees working late due to childcare responsibilities.

The success of such a switch in working practices will be results driven and measured by output. Employee wellbeing and safety will be paramount; employers and employees will work cohesively to engender a culture of sustainable management.

Ed Dickinson is an employment team associate at Cripps Pemberton Greenish

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