The impact on mental health of Covid-19: what employers need to do to build a resilient workforce

We are now several months into the coronavirus pandemic, which has brought about unprecedented change and truly tested the resilience of organisations, as workforces remain working remotely, or in isolated teams. Life as we know it has been turned on its head as lockdown continues to affect every aspect of our day to day working lives.

The impact on mental health of Covid-19: what employers need to do to build a resilient workforce

The impact of the outbreak has also been felt at an individual employee level. And supporting the mental health of employees during this unprecedented time, and beyond, has been brought to the fore.

So, what can employers start to do today to make to the mental health of their employees a priority, build a more resilient workforce, and in turn be better equipped to deal with challenges in the future?

Provide resilience training for the whole workforce

Even before the coronavirus outbreak, mental health and employee well-being was already on the agenda for many organisations. The CIPD Health and Well-being at Work Report 2020states that more organisations over the past year have attempted to address workplace stress through training provision, in particular through training line managers to manage stress. There has also been an increase in the proportion providing training aimed at building personal resilience and providing stress management training for the whole workforce. 47 per cent of organisations have introduced training such as coping techniques, and mindfulness.[1]

During this period of continuous remote working, utilising online resources and platforms such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams, can help you to deliver essential resilience training to your employees:

  • Search for existing TED talksand presentations from experts in the field of workplace stress management and resilience. Share relevant video content with your employees on your Intranet, or why not suggest scheduling 10 minutes at the end of team meetings for employees to watch a video together? Encourage discussion amongst employees and their fellow team members, and pick out any key themes; how can you apply resilience skills to your workplace?
  • Invite a guest speaker to host a wellbeing webinar, such as a life coach or resilience expert. You could trial a ‘lunch and learn’; a series of guest talks where employees can tune in to webinars whilst enjoying their lunch, or a cup of coffee.
  • Implement virtual training sessions. Set up a programme of training activities to help promote building resilience from senior leadership level, to management, to teams and on a personal level. Most reputable training providers will provide excellent online courses and resources to roll out to your employees.

Promote good mental health at all levels

Good mental health and resilience go hand in hand; you can’t have one without the other. And the coronavirus outbreak has impacted our mental health in unimaginable ways. Many individuals may find themselves being challenged by the isolation of lockdown and the huge disruption to their normal routines.

So, think about ways your workplace can promote staff wellbeing during this unsettling time, and support good mental health going forward:

  • Encourage your employees to speak openly and honestly about the benefits of good mental health. Host wellbeing events online and utilise the skillsets of your workforce; are there employees with qualifications to host? For example, morning virtual yoga sessions to help start the day, or practicing everyday mindfulness and meditation? Encourage employees to share hints and tips, and ways they promote good mental health and resilience in their day to day lives
  • Senior leadership and management teams need to lead by example. Mental health may now be firmly on everyone’s agenda, but how does talk of good mental wellbeing transfer to actual change and resilience in the workplace? Perhaps a director or board member can be invited as a guest speaker to share real-life examples of overcoming hardship in their work or personal life
  • Encourage connections between employees. Who are mental health advocates in your workplace? Investigate online training courses and qualifications, and encourage employees to have a representative from each department or team. For example, Mental Health First Aid England offer online coursesto help your workplace managers to develop their skills and knowledge to have effective mental health conversations with their teams.[2]

Prioritise the physical health of employees

Lockdown and working from home (make-shift home office environments – the laptop precariously balanced on a pile of books, and the uncomfortable dining room chair) have majorly disrupted normal routines and have taken a toll on many employees’ physical health.

Physical wellness is on everyone’s minds and there is no escape from it as the rate of coronavirus infection, new outbreaks, tracking and tracing, and trials for possible treatments are all regular news topics.

It’s difficult to know what workplaces will look like following the coronavirus pandemic, and physical health of employees will need to be considered differently too. How can your organisation prioritise the physical health of your employees in order to build a resilient workforce?

  • Incorporate exercise into daily work life (remember not everyone is a marathon runner, and physical wellness doesn’t look the same to everyone, so suggest a variety of ways for employees to get active). Provide the link between physical health and resilience. For example, a recent study conducted by Karmel Choi, a clinical and research fellow at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health found that running for 15 minutes a day or walking for an hour reduces the risk of major depression[3]
  • Physical fitness can provide a good foundation for overall resilience. Are your employees making their mental and physical health a priority? Provide resources such as healthy recipes, immune system boosting foods, and the benefits of a balanced diet. For example, statistics from HeadUp Labs found that those who snack on fruit every day are 12 per cent more likely to experience good moods than those who don't![4]
  • Does your organisation’s benefits package support a physically healthy way of life for your employees? By focussing on prevention rather than cure by offering a comprehensive health or dental plan, you can help to decrease sickness absence and contribute to your employees’ performance at work. And it also goes further than just building a resilient workforce, you can improve your company's ability to recruit and retain talent as well.

In summary, there is an intrinsic link between physical health, mental wellbeing and resilience. Looking towards the future and life after the coronavirus outbreak, organisations will need to take a holistic approach towards building resilience and cultivating a workforce who is ready to overcome life’s challenges. To quote mental health charity Mind: “Resilience isn’t a personality trait – it’s something that we can take steps to achieve.”[5] What can your organisation do, starting today?

Helping you stay comfortable and well

We've got many more articles and resources to inspire you, and your teams on our dedicated coronavirus hub. You'll find support on topics like mindfulness, nutrition and exercise. We want you to be as healthy and happy throughout this challenging time as possible, because no-one should go without the healthcare support they need.

This article is provided by Simplyhealth.


[1]Simplyhealth/CIPD Health and Well-being at Work report, March 2020. Base: 510 (organisations that take steps to manage stress)

[2]Mental Health First Aid England, Mental health support for you or your organisation,

[3]More evidence that exercise can boost mood, Harvard Health Publishing, May 2019

[4]Simplyhealth, Food for thought: Eating well to stay healthy, April 2020

[5]Mind, How can I be more resilient?

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