Let’s face it: these lockdowns are not really positive from the perspective of mental health in the workplace.
For some, they have led to a drastic reduction in work, whilst other industries are literally booming. Either way, a business may find that its employees and workers are becoming increasingly overwhelmed by the situations that they are facing on a daily basis.
Regardless of whether businesses are struggling or busy, many employees and workers are feeling that the light at the end of the tunnel is becoming increasingly difficult to see during this third lockdown. Needless to say, this is a difficult area for employers to address as it serves as a warning sign that their staff are at risk of becoming disenchanted, not necessarily with the employer, but with the world as they perceive it.
Taking the problem of overwhelm in the workplace in that light, the issue can seem staggering to the employer as well. However, whilst the realm of employment law can seem like a wall of requirements and penalties at times, it is also there to help businesses with potential solutions.
In order to keep their employees and workers engaged, employers might wish to consider the following:-
- Apportion work fairly and respect the work-life balance. Remember that, whilst they work collectively as a whole, your team consists of individuals who will have different needs. It is therefore important to recognise that, regardless of their working arrangements, your employees and workers will need you to restore some sense of balance and order to their working routines and, to some extent, to their personal lives.
- Additionally, avoid making assumptions. This is best-served by way of an example. A junior employee, Max may be struggling with his workload and has asked his line manager for help. Christine, a more senior employee with years of experience, seems to be working away happily at her desk, able to cope with whatever is thrown at her so, in order to support Max, the line manager transfers part of his caseload to Christine. Christine then finds herself working much longer hours, looking increasingly tired and unhappy, and often logging off late at night and starting early in the mornings. She starts going sick frequently, citing stress as the reason, leading the line manager to consider what they can do to try and help her back to work or whether she should be dismissed. The difficulty here is that the line manager has purely transferred the problem from one employee to another and may have missed out on the key part of actually managing the expectations of both employees and exploring possible alternatives that could have avoided this issue.
- Have regular workplace team meetings. Whilst these are likely to be taking place via Zoom, Teams, Remo or other virtual platforms, try to have them regularly (for instance, at least once a week) to ensure that your staff do not feel disconnected from the business. Even just checking to see how an employee is in the course of an email or a telephone call can go a long way in boosting their morale.
- At the same time, do not expect your employees to start discussing everything about their needs and requirements openly over a workforce-wide virtual meeting; very few people may be comfortable with that and, even if they are, as an employer, you have a responsibility to maintain the privacy of their personal data. Therefore, if a person starts to discuss things openly with your workforce, it would seem best to ask them to discuss such matters privately with you, rather than risk revealing sensitive information and/or impacting the morale of your other employees and workers. By the same token, if you have concerns about an employee or worker who is quite a private person, you can always offer them a chance for a catch-up so that you can ensure that they are okay.
- Nevertheless, do be mindful that, as the business owner or a line manager, the employee or worker may not actually want to discuss such matters with you: they might be afraid that they are on the threshold of being reprimanded or dismissed. Therefore, ensure that you have an effective outreach programme in place, such as mental health first aiders and/or an employee assistance programme. Employees and workers can also contact charities such as Mind for assistance.
These are just some ideas of the steps that you, as an employer, might wish to take in addressing the sense of overwhelm in the workplace. However, please note that each situation will turn very particularly on its own facts and it is therefore important to obtain specific advice based on those circumstances.
Moreover, these workplace issues have purely been intensified by the impact of COVID-19 – you have a responsibility to communicate effectively with your workforce and to ensure that they are safe at work even at the best of times!
This article is intended for information purposes only and not as a substitute for legal advice. TP Legal does not accept any responsibility for any decisions that you may make as a result of reading this article. If you require employment law advice, please do not hesitate to contact us on 01483 751878 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.