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24 Nov 2020
by Andrew Woolnough

How to use communication to support employee mental health this Christmas

The Covid-19 pandemic is taking its toll on the nation’s mental health. The Centre for Mental Health’s October 2020 report predicted that up to 10 million people in England alone will need specialist support as a result of the continuing global health crisis. Always an emotionally charged time of year, the 2020 festive season looks set to be particularly tough for those affected – especially if ongoing restrictions mean we cannot celebrate with our loved ones. In short, employers might well see a big rise in problems such as absenteeism and lack of engagement as a result.


“In any given year, winter can be difficult for our mental health,” said Elspeth Treacy, head of psychological services at Equiniti’s wellbeing collaborator Innovate Healthcare. “This year, many of us are already feeling fatigued with all the restrictions and doom and gloom, so it’s anticipated that mental health issues will dramatically increase in the coming months.”

However, by harnessing the power of technology to offer and communicate accessible mental health services, you can make a difference to how well your workforce copes this Christmas.

The dark days of winter

Winter is a gruelling time of year for a lot of people. 2014 research from the Weather Channel/YouGov suggests close to a third of Britons suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), also known as the winter blues.

And for many people, the festive season is the hardest time. Figures from mental health charity Mind’s Christmas survey (2016) indicate that one in 10 people feel unable to cope at Christmas – and that is in a ‘normal’ year.

This year, with Covid-19 related stress and restrictions thrown into the mix, the number of people needing help is expected to soar to record levels.

So, whether your employees are key workers, on furlough or working from home, mental health support is likely to prove one of the most essential elements of your employee benefits programme over the next few months.

Helping employees beat the winter blues

There’s no doubt that technology, from video calling to streaming services, has been a lifeline for many during the Covid-19 pandemic so far. It’s also a key part of any 2020-ready employee benefits programme.

Employees’ experiences of Covid-19 vary widely; while some are struggling with isolation, for others bereavement or financial pressures are the main concern.

So, to offer the support they need, you must provide a range of tailored resources that employees can access easily from home, then get the message out to make sure they know what help is available.

An employee assistance programme represents one of the best ways to do this, especially when combined with specialist services and an effective communications strategy that takes into account people’s preferred channels – and the way in which these may have changed if they are working remotely.

Asim Amin, founder and CEO at mental health platform Healingclouds, said: “It’s important to have mechanisms in place to counter mental health issues anytime, anywhere – particularly at the moment.

“At Healingclouds, for example, we offer 1:1 online therapy sessions and therapist-led online courses, as well as guided meditations designed to help users address their own mental health and personal growth.”

Three easy ways to support employee mental health this Christmas

1. Advocate a positive work/life balance

Encourage staff to finish work on time and to take at least a 30-minute lunch break, during which they get some fresh air where possible.

2. Use technology to stay connected 

Collaborative platforms such as Microsoft Teams, Zoom and Skype can help to keep you connected to your colleagues. You could even use them to host a virtual Christmas party or awards ceremony.

3. Promote the support tools available

Whatever wellbeing support your organisation has available, ensure it is well promoted – and accessible in the current circumstances.

The author is Andrew Woolnough, director at EQ HR Solutions.

This article is provided by EQ HR Solutions.

In partnership with Equiniti

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