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31 March 2020updated 08 Apr 2020 2:52pm

UK managers failing to meet staff mental health needs amid Covid-19 pandemic, report says

Fear of infection and feelings of loneliness are some of the potential triggers for poor mental health in the coming months.

By Rohan Banerjee

An overwhelming majority of UK managers – 69 per cent – are failing to meet their staff’s mental health needs, according to a new report warning about risks for employees’ wellbeing amid the ongoing coronavirus crisis.

Just under a third – 31 per cent – of managers feel confident to have sensitive discussions around mental health or to direct their staff to expert sources of help, research by the Chartered Institute for Professional Development (CIPD) and the insurance company Simplyhealth found. This figure has barely improved in the past four years, the report noted, despite many more managers undergoing training in this area.

Based on a survey of 1,018 professionals, representing 4.5 million employees, the report said improvement in workplace mental health practices is urgently needed. Rates of depression and anxiety are expected to increase amid the pandemic. 

Fear of infection, feelings of loneliness, and concerns over job security or continued income, were listed as some of the potential triggers for poor mental health in the coming months. The report encouraged UK employers to take action sooner, rather than later. 

It also recommended that managers maintain daily communication with their staff, as well as structured working days, and a general encouragement for healthy living, including a balanced diet and exercise. 

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Rachel Suff, wellbeing 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.” 

Richard Gillies, chief operating officer at Simplyhealth, added: “Having regular, open, and two-way conversations with your team is vital to protect the mental and physical health of your employees. We are encouraging our employees to use video calling so they can still see and talk to each other on a daily basis and feel part of their normal network.”