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HR must implement better mental health policies

Employees think there will be a greater focus on workplace mental health after COVID-19, yer HR will have to work hard to ensure it happens.

According to research from the workforce training site CoursesOnline, 66% of employees think that moving forward, more time and resources will be dedicated to mental health in the workplace due to the pandemic.

However, 40% of workplaces are yet to implement any new mental health policies in response to the pandemic.

Kizzy Augustin, health and safety partner at Russell Cooke Solicitors, told HR magazine that employers and HR departments need to take responsibility and work collaboratively to review and adapt working practices to support employees’ physical and mental health.

She said: “Workers are feeling stressed, anxious, and isolated since working from home during the pandemic.

“In some cases, we’re seeing people working from make-shift desks with inappropriate equipment, which is bound to have a detrimental impact on mental health.”

Augustin added that current regulations, for example, health and safety, are somewhat outdated and do not necessarily reflect modern working practices.

“This is why it’s essential that HR departments work closely with employees to identify issues, provide support, implement reasonably practicable measures and encourage an open and ongoing conversation between managers and employers to protect their health, safety and welfare in accordance with the law.”

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Another part of the challenge with employee wellbeing is that, due to lockdown restrictions, staff are disregarding their allocated holiday days.

Jonathan Richards, CEO and founder of employee benefits firm Breathe, said that there’s a temptation for those who save up their leave allowance for a foreign escape to put off booking leave during the pandemic.

In September last year, over two-thirds (67%) of full-time employees said they were planning to roll at least one day of annual leave into their next holiday period.

However, Richards said that employees need to take a break from time to time, whether they can get away or not.

He told HR magazine: “Logging out of emails and shutting the door on the makeshift office is hugely beneficial to avoid burnout – a few days leave to recuperate, and recharge can prove hugely beneficial for people’s mental health.”

With everyone under so much strain at the moment, from home-schooling, enhanced care responsibilities or simply feeling frustrated, Richards emphasised the importance of frequent breaks.

He added: “In my view, this is an area where managers should lead by example, demonstrating to the team that it’s ok to book time off even if there is nowhere to go.”

Today (4 February) is national Time to Talk Day, Richards advised that HR teams use this day to check in on their employees mental health. And to check if anyone is in need of a holiday!