Over the last few weeks the UK and indeed the world has been thrown in to uncertainty and chaos. With people being told to self-isolate and many being made redundant or furloughed, there has been a huge focus on peoples mental health. We wrote a blog previously about this subject – you can read it here. But this blog is about the critical key workers still leaving the comfort and safety of their homes to go into work, staff who haven’t been furloughed, still working long hours, keeping the wheels moving as much as possible. We all know that over-working can lead to burn out, burn out (if not addressed and treated) can lead to all sorts of mental issues that people are left to battle with such as depression, anxiety, extreme stress, insomnia and more. Even before this pandemic, extra pressure and mental health issues within the UK workforce caused 44% of absences. COVID-19 has taken organisations by surprise and there is, therefore, an increased pressure on existing key/core workers, many working in conditions that aren’t safe. With all of this in mind, mental illnesses are expected to rise. As a manager or business owner it’s imperative you create an open working environment where possible. We understand at the moment that certain sectors are massively under-staffed and over-worked to even have the time to support employees who may be suffering. Here are a few suggestions to bear in mind or implement within your team: - Allow employees to talk with one another, whether that’s via electronic devices, over team video calling or even face to face whilst following social distancing rules and wearing protective equipment. In an organisation in which employees can talk freely with each other, productivity and problem-solving is usually enhanced. - Try to ensure efficient training is in place. If you are hiring temporary staff to fill holes for sickness, or just to cover increased demand, they NEED the correct training. Invest the time as much as you can at the start as that will reduce new members of the team distracting current employees or their manager. When a member of staff doesn’t fully understand a task they themselves tend to procrastinate, which just results in the work still not being done and being passed to someone else, increasing their risk of burn out. - During this time trust is key. You need to give employees adequate control over how they do their work. If staff are working from home, on a warehouse floor, in a dispensary or on a checkout, you need to have faith that they know how to complete their job. Of course newer members of the team will need more support initially, be there to offer it, but bear in mind, after training, workers are more productive and able to deal with stress better if they have some control over and flexibility in how they perform their work. - Talk openly with employees, communication is important now more than ever! Management should keep colleagues informed about what’s happening in the business, transparency is key. This also gives employees the opportunity to ask questions, make suggestions and feel valued. - This might be an obvious one but right now it’s vital that management appreciate all employees’ efforts. Workers are better able to cope with heavy workloads if management is sympathetic, understanding and encouraging. Listening to employees and addressing their issues is helpful for moral. During COVID 19 most employees understand that as management you may not have all the answers, you may not have the resource to support the issue or ease any work load but you need to explain that. Don’t make false promises, or over promise and under deliver. You’ll find loyal and committed employees will value the honesty and will persevere more positively as they know what to expect. We are now swimming in muddy waters and navigating a situation that we have never experienced before. As Business Owners, CEO’s, Managers and employees we all have to pull together and share knowledge. Offer support to other businesses where possible and think about the people, the business and the ‘other side’ of this pandemic; the best way to get through this is together.