Mental health is a topic that has been coming to the fore, especially over recent years with many celebrities, well known personalities in media, sports and even members of the royal family coming forward to talk about their experiences and struggles. With campaigns to encourage conversation about mental health, slowly the stigma is being removed.

Depression, anxiety, and stress are leading causes of employee absence and since 2019 the WHO have recognised employee burnout as a medical condition, the cause of which being chronic workplace stress.

Many companies over recent years adapted their employee welfare policies to include mental health days on top of sick days, coaching and other support mechanisms, such as mental health first aiders.

What no one could foresee or plan for was a global pandemic and not only the impact on the world, businesses, and economies but the knock-on effect to individuals, their mental health and day to day lives.

Whilst there are several ways companies can improve their corporate approach to employee wellbeing and HR policies, there are also some simple ways to make a day-to-day difference.

Here are 4 easy to implement ideas:

Have compassion

Daily life stresses, struggles and commitments affect all of us in different ways. Add to this an unparalleled situation that we have not experienced in our lifetime and day-to-day life can suddenly seem extraordinarily overwhelming.

Whatever the situation with your employees, whether home-schooling, caring for relatives or feeling isolated and anxious from lack of social interaction, be compassionate to their situation. Pay particular attention to work schedules and the work-life balance and be flexible where possible to accommodate their varying needs.

Provide tips and advice

If you have employees working from home, provide tips and advice on how to set up their workspace effectively – some may have a dedicated office, some may be at the kitchen table. Points such as posture, screen height, taking screen breaks and so on are all important for wellbeing. If possible, send employees necessary office equipment to enable an effective workspace, items such as a back support, screen riser or footrest can make all the difference to comfort and productivity.

Connect informally

Find ways to connect with employees and teams that are not just formal zoom meetings, presentations and so on. The usual work environment often has a buzz and the opportunity to converse with colleagues in passing or for a break. Although this may seem like minor social interaction, it is something many of us are missing in lockdown life. A team coffee meeting, or a more informal discussion once a week could really provide the boost needed for motivation and collaboration. It is also a good idea to schedule in informal one-to-one conversations, enabling an open and honest environment without judgement. Ask how your employee is really feeling, what their struggles are and what you can do to help.  

Encourage activity

Help employees to set boundaries and encourage them to switch off from work at a certain time(s) of day. Encourage employees to be as active as possible, whether counting steps, stretching, running, cycling, or taking part in online fitness or meditation classes, all are good ways to promote wellbeing. To boost motivation and team morale create intercompany competitions or incentives for charity to give employees focus.

The wellbeing of your employees is extremely important, remember your own wellbeing is just as important too. Ensure you have the same amount of support around you as you are providing to employees.

Whilst these simple suggestions serve a purpose in day to day working life, companies should also provide formal resources to help employees cope with mental health problems. There are plenty of useful resources readily available to help with welfare, such as online applications like Calm and Headspace. Charities such as MIND and the Mental Health Foundation provide advice and initiatives that will help when addressing your employee welfare policy.

As a leader, driving the conversation about mental health and making services more accessible will improve employee outcomes. Focusing on employee wellbeing not only increases job performance and reduces absenteeism rates but benefits your business culture, employee engagement and desirability as an employer.