The ALLIANCE interview MHScot on ways to promote good mental health in the workplace.
What is MHScot and how did it come about?
MHScot Workplace Wellbeing’s main ambition is to improve the way we, as a society, view mental health and wellbeing in a workplace setting. MHScot promotes itself with the focus on stress prevention and early mental health intervention. Taking a proactive approach over a reactive one, has far greater health and social benefits for everyone.
We educate people about the stigma and barriers people experiencing poor mental health and wellbeing face in the workplace. Running workshops, courses and training can improve society’s emotional literacy and understanding, we focus on early signs, symptoms, and experiences.
The training educates people on what a diagnosis might mean for them in the workplace and how to be an initial point of contact, a listening ear, displaying empathy, compassion and understanding.
As part of our service, we offer clients access to a large, regularly updated database of resources so that they can search for any follow-up support and help that might be required, either for themselves or the person/s they are assisting.
People experiencing poor mental health (whether present, fluctuating, or previous, diagnosed, and undiagnosed) can be already working, unknown to a lot of us. Many more people want to work, and many struggle to sustain employment for any length of time. An independent review of mental health and employers by Lord Dennis Stevenson and Paul Farmer (this link will take you away from our website) states those with a long term mental health condition lose their jobs every year at around double the rate of those without a mental health condition and at a much higher rate than those with a physical health condition.
What are the key messages to those going back to work when lockdown lifts?
COVID-19 and lockdown has generated many discussions about the overall impact that these challenging circumstances have had on our physical and mental health. It has brought back into the spotlight concerns that were already a challenge in the workplace.
Adding another layer of concern in going back to work is not going to be easy. For many organisations they may still be going through consultation processes for redundancies. Layoffs may already have happened, and people may be going back to work with different people, in a different team or continuing to work from home. Your job role may have altered, and tasks increased to make up for others being off sick or who have been made redundant.
How we communicate has changed significantly as workplaces balance between those that are unable to work from home and those that can. The approaches to communication will be more varied and asynchronous. Those that can work from home, may not enjoy it for a multitude of reasons. Likewise, there will be many who are unable to work from home, who would now prefer to. Everyone is going to be on a slightly different page and that can be very unsettling.
Then add to that, all the ‘stuff’ you have been dealing with at home, other family members concerns and worries, homeschooling, fears around catching COVID-19, the dynamics of social distancing with shopping and transport and now the considerations required if you are unable to work from home and the inductions your workplace will now need to provide. What I’ve described is really the tip of the iceberg, so my top suggested key messages would be:
- It is not going to be the same as before, therefore communication, empathy, kindness, patience and checking in with each other has never been more important. My top ask of all workplaces is to communicate regularly, clearly, patiently, and considerately.
- If you have had little communication with your workplace during lockdown and you’ve been furloughed now is the time to ask for clear guidance and documents that have been created before going back. If you have worked during this period and communication has been poor, find some examples of workplaces doing this well and use this to inform your own workplace. If you are in a position that would make this difficult, try and find someone you trust who can influence your leaders. Get in touch with organisations such as ACAS (this link will take you away from our website) and The Health and Safety Executive (this link will take you away from our website) who have lots of guidance documents, many of these include considerations needed for supporting people with their mental health.
- We can only truly understand the diverse nature of mental health by educating ourselves. By educating ourselves, we can educate others and they educate those around them. We can then influence and put pressure on the government and our elected officials to make sure the services are there to those that need them in a timely manner. We can also put pressure on workplaces to provide or review employee assistance programmes, making sure they are adequate and functioning well.
Find out more about MHScot on their Facebook page (this link will take you away from our website), Twitter (this link will take you away from our website), and on Instagram (this link will take you away from our website).
Look out for more information on our news page as we delve further into the interview with MHScot.