Only 31 per cent of managers are thought to have the confidence to have sensitive discussions on mental health and point staff to expert sources of help, shows a study by the CIPD and insurer Simplyhealth.
Both organisations warn that employers need to act now to help prevent their employees from being at serious risk of mental ill health during and after the Covid-19 pandemic.
Fear of infection and feelings of isolation, along with concerns about job or income loss are just some of the knock-on effects from the pandemic that are all likely to feed the pressure and stress people are under.
Managers should to be confident and capable of supporting people’s mental well-being and prevent stress during this difficult time.
However, the Health and Well-being Survey at Work 2020 report, which surveyed 1,018 people professionals representing 4.5 million employees, finds that most managers were falling short on this front even before the crisis started.
Only 31 per cent of respondents think managers are confident to have sensitive discussions around mental health and signpost staff to expert sources of help if needed – a figure that has barely improved in the past four years despite many more managers being trained to do so.
Similarly, only 25 per cent of respondents report that managers are confident and competent to spot the early-warning signs of mental ill health.
Although managers should not be expected to be medical experts, they need to be comfortable having discussions about mental health and recognise that they will often be the first port of call when a colleague wants to raise an issue.
In response, the CIPD and Simplyhealth recommend that employers do the following during and after the crisis.
- Support and guide their managers so that they feel equipped to have sensitive and supportive discussions with staff.
- Remind managers about the importance of communicating regularly with their team and asking how they are.
- Encourage staff to practise self-care processes, such as a healthy routine for diet, sleep and relaxation.
- Promote their existing health and well-being benefits and support, for example, signposting people to their counselling helpline.
The research also finds that three-fifths (60 per cent) of organisations reported an increase in common mental health conditions (such as anxiety and depression) among employees over the past year. The pandemic will exacerbate these conditions for many and is another reason for employers to step up their efforts.
Rachel Suff, well-being adviser at the CIPD, said: “The Covid-19 pandemic is putting a huge strain on employers and individuals – and it’s completely understandable that for some, this situation is proving challenging for their mental health.
“With many workers now working from home, it can be even harder for managers to pick up on cues that their colleagues might be struggling. It’s really important that managers are regularly checking in with their team and making use of video calls, so interactions can be as personal as possible.
“Employers also need to remember that their duty of care for people’s health and safety carries on no matter where staff are based. These findings show that while more managers are being trained to help colleagues with their mental health, it doesn’t always seem to be translating into better support for staff. This pandemic presents a real threat to people’s mental, as well as physical, health and employers need to think about both when putting in place plans to protect their workforce.”