“From janitors to porters and catering staff,, the mental health of these vital cogs in the NHS ecosystem is as important as the mental health of doctors and nurses."
Anna Blackman, business services leader at PwC UK
The professional services company PwC has said that organisations providing facilities services must act now to address mental health among their employees.
While noting that some FM companies have provided mental health first aid training and run campaigns to de-stigmatise mental health, these types of initiatives are not universal across the sector and could fall short of dealing with “the acute challenges caused by Covid-19”, said PwC.
In the UK, mental health issues cost business around £1,035 per employee a year, while Canadian studies show that the pandemic could affect the mental health of more than 40 per cent of frontline hospital staff. Swift action to “enhance mental health provision is an economic as well as a moral imperative”, the company said.
Anna Blackman, business services leader at PwC UK, said: “From janitors to porters and catering staff, the mental health of these vital cogs in the NHS ecosystem is as important as the mental health of doctors and nurses.
“These employees will be experiencing a very challenging work environment and will have been impacted by the large number of admissions and patient deaths, as well as the Covid-related deaths of colleagues.
“This is not an environment that many FM firms will have been exposed to and as a result, many will not have a sturdy mental health framework in place to support employees as they work through the pandemic and cope with issues that are emotionally challenging and physically draining. But that doesn’t mean they can’t act swiftly to stem the potential rise of depression and PTSD across their workforce that is already being seen in other affected countries.”
PwC said that FM firms could do the following:
- Identify senior leaders to speak out about mental health and share their experiences to encourage employees to do the same;
- Provide employee assistance programmes and resources; and
- Create a network of mental health champions in the organisation.
NHS England has responded to the threat of mental ill health by providing a mental health helpline, and partnering with Headspace, UnMind and Big Health so staff can access mental health support apps at no charge.
Blackman concluded: “The ignorance, shame and stigma associated with mental illness means many people either don’t recognise what is happening to them, or are too afraid to ask for help. A robust mental health infrastructure is vital to enable them to open up and exorcise these experiences and issues before they escalate.
“As a business-to-business services firm… normalising conversations about mental health has been good for our people and I’m convinced that by addressing this now, FM firms will also reap similar rewards even in these unprecedented times.”