Unsurprisingly, the most recent data from the Office for National Statistics regarding COVID-19 and mental health shows that the number of people reporting high levels of anxiety rose dramatically during the pandemic. For many, the introduction of Plan B restrictions feels like a retreat back into the uncertainty of the peak, so it’s essential managers are supportive as we move back to working from home.
There have been plenty of articles about remote management styles published since the start of the pandemic. However, amidst the frustration of the Plan B announcement, it’s useful to refocus and refresh on the key principles. Here, we share some tips to alleviate anxiety and maintain morale.
Take tangible steps
The key change that Plan B brings is the return of home working. While most of us have become accustomed to some sort of hybrid working arrangement, it remains difficult for managers to monitor a team’s wellbeing without seeing them in the office every day. So how can you take active steps to ensure everyone is coping?
Mental health charity Mind have designed a Wellness Action Plan that employees can complete to create their own tangible mental health toolkit. This should be a “living document” that’s updated during incremental 1 on 1 sessions with leadership. Tools like these can help managers and employees identify practical steps to cultivate a support environment.
It’s important to understand that in times of crisis, people have different ways of coping. While some of us might be eating healthy, exercising and meditating, the rest of us may be “coping ugly”. In regard to coping, clinical psychologist and university lecturer George Bonanno wrote in a recent article: “It doesn’t have to be pretty what you do. It doesn’t have to be considered by some expert to be the right thing to do. It just has to work.”
In the face of coping ugly, managers have to show some flexibility – which is key to resilience. The pandemic has presented many distinct challenges and we constantly have to ask ourselves what we need to do to get through it. The most emotionally intelligent people realise that each individual and unique challenge requires a different response.
Turn to reliable sources
Another way that bosses can help prevent pandemic-related stress is to discourage excessive news consumption. Nothing is more anxiety-inducing than the rolling news coverage we’ve become accustomed to, so try and persuade them to keep the Twitter and live blog tabs closed.
However, perhaps the most important point is that if you can’t resist checking the headlines, make sure your source is reliable. Information can be powerful, helping people feel informed and in control, but this is only true if the source is authentic. For example, make sure rules about Plan B measures are only communicated through reputable sources.
Spot the signs and keep spirits up
It’s important to be able to distinguish between day-to-day stress and a mental health problem. Not everyone will show obvious symptoms and these become even harder to spot when employees are working from home. In order to make sure their team is properly supported, bosses should ensure they’re cultivating an open and honest environment where people feel like they can open up. As we progress into the next phase of the pandemic, it’s essential we maintain a supportive atmosphere.