For most of us in the UK, after around three months of lockdown and social distancing, things are finally starting to go back to normal. As of the 1st of June, certain year groups were allowed to go back to childcare, nurseries and schools. Schools, not yet pressuring parents to send their children in and taking a gradual approach and staggered return times, are running at 60% capacity, and as a result, many people are returning to work with their children safely at school.
There has been running discussion throughout the UK lockdown of the potential effects the isolation would have on people’s mental health, with loneliness, anxiety and agoraphobia at the heart of them. For a lot of people, the return to normal has been too much too soon, and it may just be harmful in the long run to make snap decisions. The most pressing concerns of people show similar themes:
- Fear of the virus and a second peak
- Worry over face-to-face engagement at work
- Mild agoraphobia when leaving the house for the first time in weeks
- Separation anxiety from the people they have been in lockdown with
- Co-dependency on the people they have been in lockdown with
Power to the People
If you are planning to return to work soon and are experiencing negative or worrying feelings, there are a few things you can do to ensure you protect your mental health. Firstly, talk things through. Sharing how you are feeling with friends and family helps keep people aware of where you’re at and what you’re working through and you may feel comforted that you’re not the only one feeling this way. It’s also important to speak to your colleagues and your manager to discuss the changes that will be made to the office and ways of working to continue social distancing at work and ease your concerns.
Advice to Businesses
This is a hard time for a lot of people and, though productivity and getting projects back on track is of key importance to most businesses, the welfare and wellbeing of your staff is crucial too. Many business leaders have been managing the mental health of their team when returning to work in similar ways:
- Approaching the discussion with information on the changes that will be made to limit social contact
- Providing time and a safe space for people to submit their concerns and for your business to answer and adapt to those concerns
- Provide flexible working as a basis, especially if it’s been proven during lockdown that your team can successfully work from home
- Allow people to gradually phase themselves back into working so they can adjust physically and mentally at their own pace
- Consider providing counselling or training in mental health first aid kit to ensure you are prepared and qualified to talk wellbeing with staff
With careful consideration and open communication, we believe all employers and employees can comfortably return to work, if mental health is at the forefront of their discussions.