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Returning to work

Returning to Work – Mental Health Perspective

The monumental shifts in the way we work, socialise and live our lives has and will have a profound impact on mental health. Employers need to ensure that they are ready to change or update their approach to mental health and create the necessary frameworks to support the nuances of the individual mental health cases when employees return to work. 

Communication is important

136,000 charities in the UK have an annual income of less than £100,000. The median income of small businesses in the UK paints a similar picture. About 95% of businesses in the UK employ less than 10 people and their annual income is, on average, £11,000.

Most charities and small businesses are unable to afford the expense of therapy or wellbeing programmes like larger corporations can.

Employers need to recognise that there will be a higher level of employees returning to the workplace that are experiencing poor mental health. This is why one of the main efforts employers of charities, big or small, should be their communication. 1-2-1 conversations should be happening as regularly as possible so that support is shown. It allows the employer to make reasonable adjustments for the worker/volunteer. Creating a Wellbeing Action Plan (WAP) ensures the right steps are being taken and encourages the staff member’s own contribution.

In times like these, you’ve got to communicate more. It is important to keep employees informed of what your cogitations are, as keeping them in the dark isn’t the best approach. This mitigates the risk of misinterpretation and worsening of their mental health and wellbeing. Explaining where you are at might take away from their own anxieties. 

Charities and small businesses need to be flexible

There are many factors as to why one’s mental health and wellbeing can be affected. From financial concerns to genuine boredom: these need to be understood as legitimate problems and require the employer to be flexible. If you have found flexible working to be productive for some employees, you need to show how that can work in practice. However, ultimately, charities and need to work as a team. The same goes for small businesses. Therefore, flexibility needs to be balanced with actively encouraging team engagement so as to not leave out those who may be working under different circumstances. There have been plenty of creative ways charities have encouraged team culture, but starting with something as cheap and simple as a Whatsapp group, means the words ‘sorry my bandwidth is bad’ won’t be the main topic of team meetings. Keep connected

All charities and businesses must not lose sight of diversity and inclusion. Decisions are being made quickly in order to adapt to the changing climate, however, employers must consider whether these decisions may inadvertently or disproportionately impact workers/volunteers. Ill mental health could also be considered a disability under the Equality Act (depending upon the individual circumstances), so employers should also ensure that they are not discriminating against an employee with ill mental health, as they are returning to work. 

For more information on how you can support mental health and promote better wellbeing check out these guides:

Wellness Action Plan

How To Ensure Everyone’s Mental Wellbeing

CIPD Mental Health


Article by Tilly Humphreys

Tilly Humphreys

Communications Coordinator for Small Charities Coalition

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