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As we look towards the summer and, hopefully, the gradual reopening of workplaces, managing employee mental health is going to need to be a priority. With their close-knit teams, small businesses may be well-placed to offer help, but should also recognise there is support out there they can access, writes Christine Husbands.
As lockdown measures slowly begin to ease (and hopefully for the final time), the question will begin to arise, as it did last summer, of how – and when – the many employees who have been performing their roles from home or been furloughed are now encouraged back into the workplace.
Although any return to offices and workplaces will undoubtedly be welcomed by some, many employees, even with the vaccine rollout and reduced community transmission we’re now seeing, may still have concerns and anxieties about this. When coupled with other stressors this can have a significant impact on their mental wellbeing.
While large businesses may have the benefit of an HR department and a range of support services, in reality – and perhaps counter-intuitively – small businesses may actually be better placed to support employees through this transition.
Management and colleagues who may have a closer relationship with their staff may be better able to spot a member of staff who is struggling with mental health issues than is sometimes possible in a larger, more anonymous, place of work.
Mental toll of the pandemic
Nevertheless, irrespective of size, employers will need to be aware, more than ever, of a potential decline in the mental health of their staff as we gradually come out the other side of the pandemic.
The past year and all that it has entailed has, not surprisingly, taken its toll on the mental wellbeing of many people. Anxieties have been wide-ranging, including worries about our own health, the health of our families, the impact of the restrictions, financial worries, depression brought about by isolation, grief for loss of freedom, the sheer impact on the world and, of course, those who have been bereaved.
Returning to the workplace
It also needs to be recognised that many employees will be genuinely torn: on the one hand they want to return to their places of work for reasons of job security, finances, social factors and loyalty. But, on the other, they may still have health concerns for themselves or those with whom they live, as well as being anxious about using public transport and pra