Covid-19 causing workplace mental health issues

COVID-19 has created a unique set of emotional challenges in the workplace, an issue employers need effective tools to support and manage.

Tamara Mapp-Borren, Acting CEO of Umbrella says, “COVID-19 has created a whole new work environment, there are great opportunities within this and a whole new set of challenges. As organisations pivot their approaches, their employees are navigating both work and community changes as we all focus on ‘staying safe’.

“Alert Level restrictions are still fluctuating and at times appear frustrating. The uncertain social, economic and employment future is a significant stressor for people, contributing to heightened psychological distress and decreased resilience to adapt to continued changes.”

Umbrella Wellbeing specialises in enabling mentally healthy workplaces and Tamara says it’s vital this is addressed by employers as a core part of their overall response to Covid.

Insights gathered by Umbrella reveal the impact lockdown has had on the workplace. Since the June lockdown was removed, there has been a 108% increase in new clients seeking support when compared with the same time last year.

“The COVID-19 workplace environment is challenging employees with a variety of issues around their mental health and wellbeing, including – in many cases – working from home and the challenges it presents with children yo-yoing in and out, reduced work hours and the real possibility of layoffs,” says Umbrella clinical psychologist Dougal Sutherland.

“While wellbeing and mental health are not new terms, what is new is they are being used more freely in the workplace since COVID-19 hit with people feeling more comfortable to say that “it’s okay to not be okay.”

Important terminology shifts the Umbrella team have encouraged since March are the use of ‘physical distancing’ rather than ‘social distancing’ to highlight the importance of staying socially connected while being physically separated. This is consistent with a wider workplace shift around the importance of staying connected across dispersed teams to reduce isolation while working from home.

Workplaces with resilient individuals fare better during times of uncertainty – whether that’s during an organisation restructure or while experiencing an external event like COVID-19. “Change is constant and the organisations we’ve worked with for a number of years have been in a better position to pivot during 2020 with people who had the common language and frameworks to support each other and the business over this time,” says Tamara.

COVID-19 has also resulted in a change the way Umbrella delivers its support and services.

“Before COVID -19 hit, Umbrella didn’t offer online workshops, due to Covid restrictions, we had 70 face to face workshops cancelled since 20 March 2020 – at a time when people really needed our support. This required us to pivot quickly, and we have now successfully run 90% of our workshops via zoom, with five new sessions specifically designed to support businesses and their people ‘running the COVID marathon’, Tamara says.

“However, while there has been a great lift in mental health awareness in workplaces, budgets have also been tightening. This has led to creative problem solving by organisations in terms of how to help their people in an effective way; for example, frameworks for sparking conversations through our 90min online sessions, or creating tailored workshops for their leaders online to then flow on to their support of teams.

“We know that supporting people’s wellbeing at work increases both productivity and performance, with recent research from Deloitte UK noting a $5 return on each dollar of workplace wellbeing investment*. We know budgets are tight, we also know that spent in the right areas it could help both your people and your businesses to successfully rebuild.”

All of Umbrella’s workshops are evidence based and delivered by Registered Clinical Psychologists with a key aim of supporting business performance through improved awareness and management of mental wellbeing in the workplace.

*Deloitte UK. (2020). Mental Health and employers: Refreshing the case for investment. Retrieved from https://www.deloitte.com/