or HR professionals and senior leaders, COVID-19 has been the defining challenge of our careers.
Just over a year ago we abruptly closed our offices and became remote organisations. We had to interpret new rules and regulations on a daily basis, steer chief executives into taking the right decisions, and nurture new and predominantly remote ways of working. All of this while we moved in and out of lockdown, with little certainty around the road ahead.
Perhaps the biggest issue over the last 12 months or so, however, has been supporting the mental wellbeing of entire workforces to deal with the stresses and pressures of the pandemic. It has always been significant for employers, but coronavirus meant we were faced with mental health and wellbeing issues affecting everyone to some degree.
While the positive progress on vaccinations means there is light at the end of the tunnel, the fact remains there is ongoing uncertainty, which in turn will increase anxiety and stress. We might be seeing the start of a return to normal, but for some the effects of the pandemic on mental health and wellbeing will be felt for some time yet. Indeed, the Mental Health Foundation’s latest research suggest that only 64% of UK adults feel they are currently dealing well with the pandemic.
Only 64% of UK adults feel they are currently dealing well with the pandemic. Laura Hague
ACE’s Health and Safety forum brings together members to discuss a range of issues, including wellbeing. To help members address mental health, we have published a new toolkit which has been designed to help all businesses no matter their size or how active they are in this space. For those already engaging with their people on this issue, we share the tools, initiatives and events to help you become a true champion and leader in this space. For those without dedicated capacity, we offer a step-by-step guide to start the conversation or point people to independent sources of advice.
The toolkit will help members create their own mental wellbeing programmes, or make the most of on national awareness days, such as the upcoming Mental Health Awareness Week in May. Coupled with the inspiring case studies shared at our launch event from Capita, Geo-Environmental Services Ltd, Hoare Lea, and WSP in the UK, all members should have the tools they need to start to address the issues in meaningful way.
Creating the right culture involves many things, but a great place to start is making sure everybody in your workplace shares an equal understanding, awareness, sensitivity, and respect of the importance of good mental health. Our toolkit is the first step towards nurturing this culture.
Laura Hague is chair of ACE’s Health and Safety forum and Group Safety Manager at Mott MacDonald