We have all felt the impact of COVID-19 in one way or another. The Coronavirus forced us to adapt to a new way of living, which some people have found quite positive – but for others, it has really turned their world upside down. The pandemic has not only impacted the physical health of many individuals across the UK and the world, but has been a contributor to the deterioration of many people’s mental health and wellbeing.
The lockdown forced the majority of us to stay home and cut off physical social contact outside our households. Now that it is easing, and companies start returning to ‘business as usual’, it is expected that many employees are going to find it difficult to quickly fit back into their job role due to the condition of their mental health. It’s not uncommon for people to feel down, stressed or anxious about what’s going on, but for some people, it has taken over their lives. Worryingly, at the end of June, one in ten people in the UK reported having suicidal feelings or thoughts in the two weeks prior. This shows the need for a response and recovery plan – and providing support for your staff following this time will really make the difference.
The knock-on effects
COVID-19 has caused anguish in many different ways; you don’t have to have been personally infected by the virus itself. Some of the main knock-on effects of the pandemic include:
- Health – COVID-19 is not the only health issue that grew during this time. People suffering from other illnesses, existing medical conditions and injuries were not able to access the same level of care or treatment as before the pandemic. It meant that operations were cancelled, treatment was put on hold and many were unable to seek medical attention. This has resulted in a deterioration of some conditions, and has led to many becoming really sick or even dying from illnesses they would have otherwise survived. When it comes to your staff – they may be worried about the health conditions they themselves have or the health of their loved ones.
- Grievances and loss – Sadly, many people across the world are losing their lives to the Coronavirus. These people all have loved ones which will be grieving their loss. Mental health can be at the lowest during these circumstances, and some may drop into a deep depression. There is nothing worse than losing a loved one – so supporting individuals going through this terrible time is crucial.
- Financial difficulties – Many people have found themselves struggling with their finances due to the pandemic. Although the government stepped in with the furlough scheme which your business may have taken advantage of, there are some households which rely on a greater amount of money than they received. Self-employed individuals may have got some support from the government, but they would have lost out on a lot during their time off work. Some of your staff members may be finding it difficult to support their household, whether this is through essentials, their mortgage, energy bills or tax bills. Providing support on how to handle and deal with their money is important to helping them get back on track.
- Social contact – We all had to cut off physical contact during the lockdown, but some people who rely on this contact to stay mentally stable will have found this extremely difficult to deal with. Many people may have become lonely, depressed and developed a new barrier to the outside world – which will make it harder for them to fit back into society.
- Addiction – During the lockdown, people handled things in different ways. It may have ‘unlocked’ triggers for recovered addicts, or pushed individuals to act in ways they wouldn’t usually. Gambling, drugs, alcohol or even food addictions may have presented themselves, which will require specialist support before they really get out of control. These kinds of problems are usually kept quiet, so they might be more difficult to identify.
- Strained relationships – The majority of us are not used to spending 24/7 in the house with the same people – with nowhere to go. Lockdown caused many arguments, disagreements and stressful situations between family members, friends, and partners. It may have even resulted in broken relationships, which can really affect people’s mental health and how they function on a daily basis. Domestic violence also increased significantly during this time, so keeping an eye on your employees can allow you to identify when there is an issue and take the right steps to provide support.
- Existing mental health issues – People who suffer from existing mental health issues such as anxiety and depression would have found the pandemic really difficult to deal with. Becoming cut off from society can make conditions worse, especially with the extra worry of health, family, finances, relationships and the virus itself. They would have also not been able to access the same mental health support. Now that lockdown is easing, encouraging these individuals to get back involved with their support network should improve their feelings towards it.
How to support your staff
It’s important to speak to your employees about their experiences during this time and how they have been affected; some individuals may need extra support due to a drastic change in their social circumstances, like those listed above.
Your staff may be suffering in silence with a number of issues – by speaking to your team and getting to know what they’re going through, you will be able to identify these issues and support them in the most appropriate way. Of course, you don’t need to do this all yourself if you don’t feel prepared to do so. We have a specialised health and wellbeing programme that measures, monitors and puts the steps in place to help and improve employee’s mental and physical health following this time.
If you would like to learn more about our mental and physical health and wellbeing programme for your employees following the coronavirus, speak to our team who will be happy to help!