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Employees call for businesses to do more to support their mental health during COVID pandemic

21st May 2020 by Charlotte Walker

Employers must do more to support the mental health of their staff during the Covid-19 pandemic, as new research shows up to 23 million people in the UK could be struggling with poor mental wellbeing as a result of the current climate.

The research, carried out by not-for-profit healthcare provider Benenden Health, showed that 35% of people are thought to be struggling with their mental wellbeing as a result of the pandemic, with many saying support from employers could help ease the stress they’re experiencing day-to-day.

Nearly one in five people who are experiencing poor mental wellbeing said work is causing them the most stress in their daily lives, with 11% concerned about losing their job and 8% stressed by their workload. Having children at home was also identified as a key stress factor, with more than half (58%) of parents whose mental wellbeing has been negatively impacted by the pandemic saying balancing working from home and childcare was having an impact.

A shocking one in ten (11%) parents who said their mental wellbeing had been negatively impacted by the pandemic said their employer isn’t being understanding of the requirements of working with children at home, leading to added pressure about professional performance as well as being a good parent.

Benenden Health believes it is important for businesses to support their employees during the crisis through open communications, establishing or adapting their current health and wellbeing plans and checking in with potentially vulnerable staff members. More communication could help allay stresses amongst workers and help promote positive mental wellbeing – as more than a third of those surveyed (38%) said support from their employer would help with their poor mental wellbeing, and nearly a quarter of respondents said this would be improved if they knew their job was safe (22%).

The survey was carried out to understand the impact of lockdown on individuals, with results showing that nearly a third of people had seen their mental wellbeing negatively impacted due to COVID-19, with 12% never having suffered from poor mental wellbeing previously and now have. Extrapolated across the UK public, this could mean up to 23million people are currently suffering from poor mental wellbeing, causing lasting impact on the economy, businesses and the health sector.

Cheryl Lythgoe, Matron at Benenden Health, said: “Whilst it’s not surprising to see the effect the COVID-19 pandemic has had upon the mental health of the UK public, what is surprising is that businesses are missing the opportunity to take taking simple steps to help support their workforces and protect positive wellbeing at a time when many people are struggling.
“It’s harder to identify issues when teams are working remotely, on furlough or social distancing, so taking the time to check in with team members, holding regular video calls and company updates, and keeping people informed will go a long way in promoting positive mental health. We also recommend encouraging staff to take regular screen breaks, get exercise within the government guidance, and promote a clear work-life balance to help reduce stress.”

Benenden Health has been caring for its community of members every day since 1905.  Its dedicated Coronavirus hub includes resources and information about how to promote positive mental and physical health whilst in isolation, as well as advice for businesses and employers looking to support the wellbeing of a remote workforce.

Download Benenden Health’s free report on the impact of COVID-19 on UK employees