Occupational health and Covid-19. How can we support the mental health effects of the Corona Virus?

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Occupational health and Covid-19. How can we support the mental health effects of the Corona Virus?

Occupational health and COVID-19: what role should occupational health have during the coronavirus?

Many employers are starting to welcome staff back to the workplace following the relaxation of lockdown restrictions. Companies have invested a lot of energy and thought into ensuring the physical wellbeing of those returning. Social distancing is of course still required and many workplaces will have had to radically adapt to accommodate this. Additionally many businesses are taking (sometimes pretty radical) steps to ensure the virus stays out of the building!

COVID-19 and Mental Wellbeing

Physical wellbeing aside, how should occupational health approach the mental health effects of COVID-19? Back in January (which feels like a lifetime away to most) we looked at the importance of mental health in the workplace. A recent CBI found that 98% of respondents thought the mental health of employees should be a company concern. For many this concern is now more prevalent than ever as levels of anxiety and depression peak as part of the collateral impact of C-19. OHPs need to consider how to approach the mental health of the both the employees returning to work, and those remaining at home.

Here is a quick guide exploring a few approaches you can take to support your workforce.

Occupational health and COVID-19 – advice to reassure and support anxious staff returning to the workplace.

Be informed

Refer to authorities such as the NHS or PHE for information about what to do during every stage of the pandemic. Share this advice with your workforce whilst advising against over watching media reporting of the crisis if they find it raises their anxiety levels. Encourage them to ‘stick to the facts’ rather than focussing on clickbait stories of personal tragedies.

Stay connected

Keep in touch with your colleagues and check in on how they are. Be open about your own concerns to encourage a dialogue where they be open about theirs.

Stay healthy

It’s more important than every to pay attention to our personal health.¬† There seems to have been a trend for weight gain over lockdown, and unfortunately obesity does also seem to have a link with virus mortality rates. This will inevitably lead some to become anxious and have feelings of low self worth. A healthier body makes a healthier mind so you should actively encourage exercise and a good diet.

Ask for help

Don’t let your anxiety overwhelm you. If you feel unable to cope ask for help. Create a working environment where your employee feels able to communicate their mental concerns.

Be proactive about your mental health

It’s more important than ever to encourage mental resilience. Encourage your workforce to use the NHS Every Mind Matters website which provides some fantastic tools. The MIND and The Mental Health Foundation websites are also worth a look (a long with this blog of course!)

Occupational health and COVID-19 – advice to those staff who continue to self-isolate.

Stay connected

Just because you’re physically isolated doesn’t mean you need to be socially isolated. Encourage those who are isolating to remain connected via email, social media, phone and video conference. Perhaps you could organise some ‘virtual’ coffee breaks… A daily opportunity for your staff to connect outside of meetings and to make a social connection.

Form a routine

It’s easy to let routines slip when working from home. Line managers should be vigilant about liaising with their staff members to ensure that their work load is structured and connective.

Self care

People remaining at home should be encourage to pay attention to their own needs, and to reward themselves for any and all achievements. Regular sleep patterns, healthy diets and exercise should all be encouraged. This includes avoiding connecting with negativity. Encourage the sharing of good news to counteract the current headlines.


Occupational health and COVID-19 – how to connect with staff in isolation

Much like the rest of the world OHPs have had to move online. Remote consultations can be carried out via Zoom, Microsoft Teams or other similar platforms. It is vital in these circumstances to protect the confidentiality of the person you are consulting with, and that you present yourself in a consistently professional manner.

In conclusion

COVID-19 has brought huge disruption to countless workplaces and lives. We’re not out of the woods yet and the future of the next few months is unclear both for employees and their workforce. As OHPs supporting employee’s mental health the overriding advice is to stay connected. Keep avenues of communication flowing and encourage¬† an open dialogue on how the crisis is affecting mental wellbeing.

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