Return to work coincides with call for firms to address new epidemic

As employees start to return to work transport systems and the streets in major centres have seen a return to near pre-pandemic levels.

However, increasing numbers of staff are also returning to the workplace with  mental health issues which have been exacerbated by the social distances restriction which have been in place for much of the past two years. And there is growing evidence that while they are keen to access support a significant number have yet to speak up about it.

In the UK research released yesterday found one in four adults who have experienced a worsening of their mental health for the first time during the pandemic have yet to have a first conversation about it – equivalent to around one million people.

The survey of more than 5,000 people also revealed that one in eight people (12 per cent) who were already struggling with a mental health problem when the pandemic hit said they haven’t spoken to anyone about their mental health since the pandemic started.

The poll was conducted as part of Time to Talk Day, a national day of conversations about mental health. The aim is to spark millions of conversations about mental health in communities, schools, homes, workplaces and online across the UK.

Time to Talk Day 2022 is run by Mind and Rethink Mental Illness in England, See Me with SAMH (Scottish Association for Mental Health) in Scotland, Inspire and Change Your Mind in Northern Ireland and Time to Change Wales. It is being delivered in partnership with Co-op. The issue is becoming ever more acute according to experts.

There is a growing pressure on HR departments to take the lead and put in place systems to not only identify but also provide access to support for staff which are suffering with their mental health.

Amy Tomlinson, head of HR at insurer MetLife, said: “We’ve made great strides in recent years around encouraging a wider conversation on mental health and helping to reduce stigma. Vocal advocates from Prince William and Naomi Osaka have brought the conversation into the mainstream and are using their platforms to encourage us to speak out when we might be struggling. The workplace is no different, businesses and managers across the UK are taking steps to remove the taboo and reiterating to staff the support services available to them.

“For employers this is crucial, especially in a world of hybrid working. Spotting struggling employees can be harder and many can feel isolated from their colleagues. Signs of burn out in particular can be hard to spot.  Taking steps as a business to support a healthy and happy workforce, can help to boost morale, increase productivity and ultimately reduce absences.

“Time to Talk day then is an opportunity for businesses to reflect on the steps they are taking to support employee’s mental wellbeing, ensuring they are creating a supportive and open community to talk about mental health and promote support services available to their staff. The reality is that we all have mental health, and this can fluctuate just like our physical and financial health. We all have our own struggles but by talking about them, however big or small, we can support ourselves and others.”

The debate over a move to new ways of working continues but there is growing evidence that the uncertainty that has been caused by the pandemic has taken a toll on staff, and firms are now faced with an urgent challenge to support their employees, through what is fast becoming an epidemic.

Jon Guy,

Editor, Emerging Risks

There is a growing pressure of HR departments to take the lead and put in place systems to not only identify but also provide access to support for staff which are suffering with their mental health.

Follow us on twitter: @risksEmerging

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