Across the nations of the UK, lockdown eases in different ways and at different times. As we begin to come out of lockdown many of us are faced with both challenges and opportunities; particularly regarding mental health
Within social distancing guidelines, we may be able to see friends and family in person, play sport or return to work.
However, some may find even these longed-for changes difficult for our mental health. The idea of coming out of lockdown when the scientific debate is ongoing may also be worrying for those who are more at risk themselves or who live with loved ones who are or those living with pre-existing mental health problems.
What are the mental health challenges, and what can we do?
We should be prepared for the fact that the end of lockdown might be as hard for some as the start was.
Just as it took time to find ways of coping during lockdown, we should also expect that it may take time for some to find their way back, and to reconnect with life. Things may not be the same as they were before.
This may be particularly prevalent in the workplace, with anxiety in staff around returning to work and being in closer contact with people outside of their bubble, be that work colleagues, visitors or members of the public when travelling to work.
Reassurance and communication of your COVID secure measures will be key in helping those who are concerned about taking this next step in returning.
Having a flexible approach to a return will also be helpful, phasing in the return and facilitating a hybrid of continuing to home work and time in the office if possible.
Recognising the signs
It is also important to recognise the signs that employee may be struggling with their mental health, maybe they didn’t suffer before but now you are seeing a difference in them since the easing of lockdown and returning to work.
Colleagues may appear tired or distracted, or the opposite and make themselves busy to distract from how they are feeling. Temperament may change, mistakes may be made or increased sickness absence may occur.
Particularly with employees returning to the workplace after working from home; communicate and catch up with them regularly to discuss how any altered ways of working are going, have you had to make changes to procedures, how are these affecting their ability to do their job and what effect does this have on their stress levels, confidence?
Don’t assume that because they are back in their normal place of work everything will revert back to how it was before.
Most people who develop mental health problems recover well, if they have right support from the people in their lives.
Supporting colleagues who have mental health problems is about helping them to find ways to recover, helping them to stay well, and ensuring that the workplace is a safe and pleasant place to be, not just after lockdown but always.