Louise Lawrence: Mental health support services and the new normal

The Covid-19 pandemic has shone a spotlight on mental health and wellbeing in the workplace, with employers being particularly concerned about the impact of working from home on their employees’ health. In our Shifting attitudes to flexible working – six months on research published in August 2020, which surveyed 500 HR decision makers, concerns about the negative impact on employee wellbeing came up in the top four challenges that businesses face if employees work from home either all or most of the time.

In our experience, employers are offering more mental health support as a result of the pandemic. This is supported by a study carried out by the Reward and Employee Benefits Association in May 2020, in association with Unmind, with nine in 10 respondents stating they were offering more mental health support as a result of Covid-19.

Employers have focused on their virtual wellbeing offering as more employees have been working from home. This has included sessions on resilience and mindfulness, online yoga and exercise classes, access to wellbeing apps, free counselling sessions, and digital GP appointments. Employers have also looked at ways of how to successfully engage with employees who are working remotely by holding virtual coffee breaks and team socials, and putting in place buddy systems. Successful engagement is crucial as it is harder for employers to spot signs of mental ill-health among their employees if they are working remotely.

With many businesses looking at increasing flexibility around working from home in the long term, it will be even more important that businesses continue to offer structured wellbeing support while engendering an open culture where employees can find support for mental health issues at an early stage.

Louise Lawrence is a partner at Winckworth Sherwood

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