Ahead of Mental Health Awareness Week UK, Monarch pulls back the curtain on mental health at work, an essential tool in safeguarding your team’s mental wellbeing during the COVID-19 crisis and what one company is doing to support professionals within the energy sector.
The hidden contagion
Since the World Health Organization declared coronavirus a public health emergency back at the end of January, there has been a second pandemic threatening to spread among us, far less deadly but no less dangerous: fear.
The risk that COVID-19 has posed to the job security, personal safety and relationships of many people has triggered widespread anxiety, isolation and stress. A recent survey from charity Young Minds found that 80% of respondents under the age of 25 had seen their mental health worsen and YM speculates that this is likely being replicated in adults.
Fortunately, we live in an era of mental health awareness and these are recognised as insidious and potentially dangerous conditions for human wellbeing.
Primarily it is understood that a positive mental health is essential to good general health and happiness however, the financial repercussions of poorly maintained mental health are well documented as well.
Between 2018-2019 alone, approximately 15 million working days were lost as a result of stress-related illnesses or approximately 40,000 years. To put that into perspective, modern homo sapiens only first appeared in Europe 45,000 years ago. All this adds up to around £5bn in lost revenue every year.
Lean on me
The question then is how can employers, managers and board members safeguard the mental health of their teams and establish the support systems they need during the pandemic. Companies were already embracing remote communication technologies like Slack, Microsoft Teams and Zoom prior to lockdown but if yours has not, now is the time.
Communication is often taken for granted but is absolutely essential, not only to organise effectively, but now, more than ever, in maintaining professional relationships and combating feelings of isolation or uncertainty.
However, there is a balance to be struck here as well, since video call fatigue has now become a recognised phenomenon and it is established that the challenges of technology can be exhausting if one is forced to use it constantly.
Delays, screen freezes and echos are only a few of the variety challenges that regular conversation does not present, try to focus on the quality of video meetings rather than quantity, as you would with a regular meetings and limit their length and number each week. Otherwise you risk team members coming to resent the technology rather than harnessing it.
The energy sector specifically has been gifted a personal saviour in the form of EnergyMind, a new initiative founded to nurture a positive perception surrounding mental health at work. EM’s program is open to energy professionals and teams to take part in events over the coming weeks surrounding mental health awareness and how to devise strategies to preserve it.
EM’s arrival is welcome news given the uncertainty in the fuel markets at the moment, particularly oil and gas, and the subsequent anxiety being experienced by those affected.
Fostering a culture of compassion and connectivity can be challenging, however small things like asking about a team members week or encouraging exercise and getting into nature will inform the support network that team members turn to when they’re struggling.