Mental Health Awareness Week 2021 – News, Views, Hints and Tips

Mental Health Awareness Week 2021 – News, Views, Hints and Tips

This Mental Health Awareness Week, REALSENSE are proud to play our part in removing the stigma around mental health issues in the workplace and be involved in starting conversations about mental health and the things in our daily lives that can affect it by offering free access to our Mental Health Awareness Online Training Course, developed with our partners Zentano (See free code information below).

Mental health problems in the workplace are common, with at least one in four employees experiencing issues with their mental health including anxiety and depression. According to the CIPD, early indications suggest that:

“the Covid-19 pandemic (and measures taken by government to control it such as lockdown and social distancing) will have a significant impact upon the mental health of employees. It is very possible that these mental health implications will be felt for many months or even years”.

In addition to this, over the last year, some employees have experienced bereavement, others may have had changes to their health such as long-Covid and the increase in employee reliance on alcohol and drugs whilst working from home has been well documented (See our previous article here).

It is more important than ever that employers help reduce the stigma some employees still feel regarding mental health and try to ensure that everyone feels comfortable and confident to openly talk about any problems they may be experiencing. Why not use this Mental Health Awareness Week to talk to your employees about how they’re really feeling?

How Can I Support The Mental Health of My Employees?

Workplaces should continuously strive to provide a mentally well workplace by promoting a work/life balance and by ensuring that employees take regular breaks and know who to ask for help when they need it. Reasonable adjustments should be made to reduce stress in the workplace and many employees might need more support than previously in post-pandemic times.

Managers and supervisors can benefit from Mental Health Awareness training to help them to understand how to help and support staff as a part of their ‘duty of care’ under the Health and Safety Act. Learning how to spot the signs of mental illness, stay mentally healthy and support others can also be a useful educational tool for all employees as a part of their health and wellbeing training.

Here at Realsense, we are delighted to work in partnership with Leadership and Coaching Specialists Zentano and together with Psychotherapist and Performance Psychologist Andy Flack, we have developed our Mental Health Awareness Training course for employers and employees to use within the context of Health and Wellbeing in the workplace.

Within the course, we offer support, hints and tips in addition to information and advice around mental health and support for employers to manage employee mental health in the workplace.

An example of our Hints and Tips for a Work/Life Balance is below:

Hints and Tips for a Work/Life Balance

At Work:

  • Set Manageable Goals
  • Be Efficient with Your Time
  • Ask for Flexibility If You Need It
  • Take Regular Breaks
  • Communicate
  • Be Kind to Yourself
  • End Your Working Day on Time

At Home:

  • Unplug your devices!
  • Don’t over-commit
  • Be Supported
  • Stay Active
  • Look After your Health
  • Prioritise Your own Well-being

Why is Mental Health Awareness Training Important?

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) “Globally, an estimated 264 million people suffer from depression, one of the leading causes of disability, with many of these people also suffering from symptoms of anxiety”.

A recent WHO-led study estimates that depression and anxiety disorders cost the global economy $1trillion each year in lost productivity.

“Unemployment is a well-recognized risk factor for mental health problems, while returning to, or getting work is protective. However, a negative working environment may lead to physical and mental health problems, harmful use of substances or alcohol, absenteeism, and lost productivity. Workplaces that promote mental health and support people with mental disorders are more likely to reduce absenteeism, increase productivity and benefit from associated economic gains” explains the WHO-led study.

The World Health Organisation stresses that it is increasingly important that employers work towards PROTECTING mental health by reducing work-related stress factors, PROMOTING mental health by developing positive aspects of work and the strengths of employees and ADDRESSING mental health problems regardless of their cause. Mental Health Awareness training can help organisations to achieve all these things.

Within our Mental Health Awareness Training course, we use a simple model of the mind to understand mental health and explore the conscious and unconscious mind, our beliefs and their impact on mental health. The Mental health Continuum is explored including symptoms of various mental health conditions as well as the relationship between physical and mental health and the factors that may lead to mental health issues.

Throughout the course, learners will explore their own self-awareness and become aware of changes to look out for (behavioural, emotional, bodily and psychological changes). We introduce ways of maintaining good mental health with a focus on challenging thoughts and building resilience as well as including tips to deal with worry and information about supporting your own mental health and that of your employees.

The course includes a section specifically aimed at helping to support your mental health during the Covid 19 Pandemic as well as Tips to Manage Your Moods and Emotions.

This Mental Health Awareness week, why not make it a workplace priority to protect, promote and address mental health?

Mental Health Awareness Training Free Course Trial

If you or your employees could benefit from a free trial of our Mental Health Awareness Online Training course, please click on the link and use Promo Code RS-MHW-21 once the course is in your basket. No other purchase is necessary but please feel free to browse our website and contact us at sales@real-sense.com if there’s anything else we can help you with.

How Employers Can Tackle the Rising Problem of Alcohol and Drug Misuse During the Covid 19 Pandemic

How Employers Can Tackle the Rising Problem of Alcohol and Drug Misuse During the Covid 19 Pandemic

Mel Vella, founder of Melvel Training talks to REALSENSE’s Kate Lindop about the UK’s rising problem of alcohol and drug misuse that faces employers during the Covid-19 pandemic and considers advice and guidance for organisations with staff transitioning back to the workplace in the coming months.

Mel Vella, founder of Melvel Training

Mel Vella, founder of Melvel Training

With an editorial in the British Medical Journal stating that ‘tackling harmful drinking during lockdown will be an integral part of the nation’s recovery’ and Alcohol Change reporting that 1 in 5 adults have been drinking more often in the last 12 months, I asked Mel Vella, founder of Drugs and Alcohol Awareness Company Melvel Training to share her insights and guidance about the rising problem of drug and alcohol misuse due to the Covid-19 Pandemic and to explain what impact this may have for organisations in the coming months as employees return to the workplace.

“There have been a number of studies assessing drug and alcohol use during the Covid-19 Pandemic’ explains Mel, ‘All of which indicate a significant increase in the UK. For employers, this poses a potential minefield in the coming weeks and months. What happens when employees with an increased dependency on drugs or alcohol return to the workplace?”

 

Employee use of alcohol use during lockdown – statistics and reasons

Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, a yougov.co.uk poll found that on any given day, 200,000 people went to work with a hangover and one in four admitted to making mistakes due to being hungover.

These figures are thought to have significantly increased since lockdown began in March 2020, with Mel explaining that:

“CIPD research has found that 27% of people say their alcohol consumption has increased as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic”

A quick poll amongst friends and family found that many people had received flippant texts, memes or gifs about drinking at their desks during the day or using alcohol as a coping strategy – especially when dealing with furlough or juggling working from home with the additional stress of home schooling. Other reasons for the increase in alcohol consumption include depression, worry and loneliness. (Global Drug Survey – UK response – cited by Health Europa).

“Many people have reported that during lockdown they start drinking earlier in the day than they would if they were at work,” says Mel “And homeworkers may not realise that company Drug and Alcohol policies still apply when they are working from home”.

“It can also be difficult to know how many units of alcohol we consume at home as we don’t necessarily measure the amount of alcohol we pour, and it is easy to keep going back to have ‘just one more’”.

With alcohol factoring in one in four workplace accidents prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, and more than 17 million lost working days being attributed to alcohol use, this is a growing workplace issue that has the potential to affect all employers in the months and years post-lockdown.

 

Drug use amongst employees is increasing too

Drugs are commonplace and most people will have used a drug at some point in their life – caffeine, alcohol, tobacco, and paracetamol are just a few examples. However, any drug can be harmful if it is misused.

According to the NHS Business Services Authority (NHSBSA)

“More antidepressants were prescribed in March, April and June 2020 than in the same months the previous year”

Although part of a wider trend of antidepressant use, this is the highest figure on record, with an increase of 11%, 7% and 8% respectively.

“All medicines can cause side effects, particularly if not used as recommended,” Mel explains “and due to the already existing mental health crisis in the UK being intensified by lockdown and the pandemic, many employees who return to the workplace after lockdown will now be using anti-depressants, sleeping tablets or other forms of self-medication, all of which can have side-effects that potentially affect their ability to carry out their job role”.

 

Employees may need additional support returning to the workplace

Although prescription drugs have many benefits, often during the pandemic they’ve been prescribed as a “short-term solution, during a time where there has been difficulty in accessing the support of a counsellor or GP” states Mel. “Employees may need additional support to transition back to the workplace and employers should be aware that many prescription drugs (and even cough and cold medicines) can have side-effects including drowsiness which can affect performance, concentration and alertness. “This safety issue needs to be addressed especially amongst those employees using heavy equipment, driving regularly as part of their job or undertaking manual labour”.

Additionally, employers have a legal duty to protect the health, safety and wellbeing of their employees so should consider the processes and resources they have in place to support the transition back to the workplace. Employees may need additional help and support to manage ongoing mental health concerns as well as potential problems arising from alcohol or prescription drug use.

Illegal drug use has increased in the last 12 months too, with the British Medical Journal reporting that the number of people using illegal drugs globally has risen by 30% over the past decade to 269 million. They also state that “the Covid-19 pandemic could worsen the situation because the resulting restrictions on borders and other areas are causing shortages of drugs locally, leading to increased prices and reduced purity”.

Workplace awareness training and communication is important around this issue as illegal substance use can also impact on the workplace. Employers are breaking the law if they knowingly allow illegal drug-related activities to take place in the workplace.

 

Preparing for the return to work – Your Drug and Alcohol Policy

The Health and Safety at Work Act (1974) states that employers and employees have a duty to maintain a safe work environment. The focus is on health, safety and welfare.

Mel explained to me that “an employer or employee or both could be liable if a drug or alcohol-related accident occurs at work, yet many organisations still feel that they have no need for a Drugs and Alcohol policy”. All organisations are different and will take a different stance on what is acceptable, but there are clearly defined workplace regulations that must be adhered to and these should be explained clearly to employees through policies and training.

With increased alcohol and drug use being reported by so many people, employers should be acting now to make sure that potential problems and issues are addressed before employees return to the workplace.

According to the HSE, understanding the signs of drug and alcohol misuse will help you to manage health and safety risk in your workplace, be compliant with health and safety obligations, reduce business risk and support your employees. A Drugs and Alcohol Policy could form a part of your company Health and Well-being policy or Health and Safety Policy and offer help and support as well as detailing when the disciplinary procedure may be used.

 

Drug and Alcohol Awareness Online Training

There are extensive benefits to implementing drugs and alcohol awareness training for your staff including:

  • All employees are given concise guidance on what is and is not acceptable behaviour in your organisation.
  • Reduced sickness and staff turnover and increased productivity levels due to reduction and prevention of the issues.
  • Employer and employee responsibilities are clearly set out and understood.
  • Line managers and supervisors are given clear guidance regarding procedures to follow.
  • Employees are aware of the support available to them and the importance of their welfare is demonstrated.
  • Having policies in place will help you meet your legal health and safety responsibilities and improve the health and wellness of employees.

Our Drug and Alcohol Awareness courses developed in partnership with Mel Vella at Melvel Training give detailed information about the problems associated with the use of drugs and alcohol, the impact of misuse on the workplace and information about what you can do to minimise potential risks of drugs and alcohol.

We have specifically tailored courses for employers or employees. Our Drugs and Alcohol Awareness for Managers course also provides guidance on developing and implementing a workplace Drugs and Alcohol Policy.

REALSENSE is currently offering a free trial of either of the online Drugs and Alcohol Awareness training courses which look at the aspects covered in this article but in much greater detail and aim to ensure that your organisation is ready for the return to the workplace whilst supporting the welfare and well-being of your employees.

To find out more, take a look at our Drugs and Alcohol Awareness training courses where you can purchase the course or request a free trial or alternatively contact us on 01332 208500. If you have employees working from home, you might find our remote worker training courses helpful.

 

Additional Resources

MelVel Training – https://melveltraining.co.uk/
Drink Aware – https://www.drinkaware.co.uk/
DrugWise – https://www.drugwise.org.uk/
NHS Choices – https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/healthy-body/drug-addiction-getting-help/
Release – https://www.release.org.uk/

Working from home – REALSENSE talk to Mabbett for an expert view

Working from home –
REALSENSE talk to Mabbett for an expert view

Mabbett’s Health and Safety Manager, Omar Khalid talks to REALSENSE’s Kate Lindop and shares his insights, advice and guidance for people working from home and working remotely.

Omar Khalid, Health and Safety Manager

Omar Khalid, Health and Safety Manager at Mabbett

The Covid-19 pandemic has significantly changed the way people are working across the UK. According to the Office for National Statistics, nearly half (46.6%) of all those in employment were working from home by April last year. Many employees have experienced setting up a home office for the first time and it is no longer ‘just a temporary measure’, with homeworking becoming a more permanent fixture for many organisations.

I asked Omar Khalid, Health and Safety Manager at leading safety, environment and engineering consultancy, Mabbett, to share his insights and guidance for those still homeworking nearly a year later and for his advice about the steps employers can take to successfully incorporate homeworking into their organisations on a more permanent basis.

Omar explained that “although homeworking is generally considered to be a low-risk activity, there are still practical considerations that employers and employees must undertake”. We discussed the most common ways employees and employers can work together to ensure that working from home benefits everyone.

Setting up your homeworking environment

For many people, working at the kitchen table or on the sofa has been an intermediate fix, a temporary solution until they return to the office. But with homeworking here to stay, it’s important to consider your working environment and the factors that could cause long-term problems unless you make some minor adjustments.

Display Screen Equipment (DSE) Assessment

Omar explains “Employers have a duty of care to ensure that their employees can carry out their work safely and comfortably”. For many of us, this means undertaking a Display Screen Equipment (DSE) Assessment as a normal part of our working life in the office as well as a legal requirement – but what about at home? “It is important that employers arrange for employees to carry out a DSE assessment for their home workstation. The assessment findings should then be reviewed by a competent person (such as the company Health and Safety Manager) to identify any issues or requirements”.

Potential issues arising from the improper use of DSE at home can include repetitive strain injury, upper limb problems and back pain as well as eye strain. These can all be avoided if a short assessment is carried out.

Successful homeworking is a combined effort

Many employers have allowed their workers to take their office equipment home, such as their their office chair and monitor stand, to help them maintain the correct posture when working and these are the types of reasonable steps an employer “should be taking to help their employee work more comfortably and safely” explains Omar. “As we’re in lockdown and an employer can’t visit your home to assess your workstation, an employee can work through a checklist themselves and should report any pain or discomfort they’re feeling to their line manager. Employee assessment and feedback is important as it provides employers with visibility of any issues and an opportunity to advise, guide and support the employee and where appropriate to do so, put any corrective actions in place to help address and or resolve problems or issues identified”.

Mental Health of employees working remotely

Mabbett hold the Gold level ‘Healthy Working Lives’ Award, so Omar was able to offer some valuable insight about the health and wellbeing of staff working from home. It’s only in recent years that employers have begun to acknowledge that the ‘health’ in health and safety also relates to mental health. Now more than ever, it’s important for employers to ensure that the mental health of their employees is not being disproportionately affected by working from home.

As many as 70 million working days are lost each year due to mental health problems, costing employers approximately £2.4 billion per year, so pre-empting any issues or concerns around mental health when your team are working from home is clearly beneficial for both financial and productivity reasons.

With The Telegraph newspaper reporting that the third lockdown has triggered an ‘unprecedented crisis in mental health issues’, a quick straw poll of our circle of family and friends illustrated a prevailing sense of the ‘mini meltdown’. People are struggling to juggle work and home-school, pressure and frustration is building from the continual lack of social events and opportunities, anxiety about the new Covid strains is high and we miss our friends and loved ones. All of this can have a negative impact on productivity and absence levels at work. In fact, many people still felt exhausted from 2020 even before 2021 came along! So how can employers recognise if their staff are affected and how can employees let their managers know how they’re feeling?

Mental Health – Good communication is key

Omar emphasised that “Communication between employers and employees is key”. He explained that Mabbett have a system in place to ensure that all staff are contacted regularly, both formally and informally and that they have a team of ‘Mental Health First Aiders’ who will arrange to call staff with the aim of checking in with them to see how they are doing. If a staff member is struggling, employee and employer should work together to come to a mutually beneficial solution – whether this is a restructured day, reduced hours or making use of the furlough scheme – there are options that mean that you and your team don’t have to suffer in silence.

More formal and scheduled weekly or monthly staff meetings should also be held to continue the ‘team’ feeling, and inductions and onboarding with new staff should also be more extensive than normal with regular remote check-ins and training. Using online communication tools such as Microsoft Teams, Google Hangouts, Skype or Zoom helps to ensure team members never need to feel alone.

Omar also explained a more informal virtual drop-in zone known as ‘The Kitchen’ where staff can pop in during certain hours of the day just to say hello and have a virtual tea or coffee with a colleague. Here at REALSENSE, we have a similar idea in place with virtual ‘elevenses’ video meetings. The only rules are that these are not compulsory to attend and discussing Covid statistics is banned!

Plan your homeworking day – find your rhythm

Many staff take fewer breaks when working from home so a diary reminder or alarm to remind you to take a break or to signify a daily checkpoint or the end of your working day can help. Remembering to take a suitable period to break for lunch and trying to go for a walk and get some fresh air can also be of benefit. Employers should encourage everyone at all levels of the organisation to adopt a responsible and pragmatic approach i.e. to look out for the wellbeing of others as well as their own. We have created a simple poster for you containing 12 tips for you to consider that could help improve your experience when working from home.
12 Tips for Health Homeworking
Download our FREE PDF containing 12 Tips for Healthy Homeworking

A healthy approach to employee wellbeing

Listening to Omar, it was clear that communication between employer and employee when homeworking is of equal importance to considering health and safety issues, and all members of staff should take reasonable steps to play their part. An employer can only help solve problems if a homeworking employee communicates that there is a problem. However, not all organisations have obvious, open lines of communication, and in some instances, homeworkers may find themselves with an unsupportive, uncommunicative line manager.

In this situation, Omar advises talking to a colleague or another more senior team member to raise concerns and to get support. If this fails and a homeworking employee is really struggling then The Citizens Advice Bureau, ACAS or a Union can all be useful points of contact. (See additional resources information below).

Ideally, employers and employees will work together and develop strong communication skills to ensure that homeworking is productive, successful and beneficial for everyone.

Effective homeworking – Ask the Experts

E-Learning developers REALSENSE have recently launched a homeworking business raining course in collaboration with Mabbett who support organisations to be compliant with Health and Safety obligations and reduce business risk.

As well as some of the obvious health and safety aspects of homeworking, Omar highlighted that there are other obligations relating to remote and homeworking that employers may have yet to address, or could be handling more successfully such as fire safety, personal security and cyber security issues.

REALSENSE is currently offering a free trial of the online Homeworking training course which looks at the aspects covered in this article but in much greater detail. This training may be exactly what you need to not only advise and guide your workforce on homeworking but also open up good lines of communication with staff currently working remotely – supporting safe working and an effective approach to mental health and wellbeing whilst working from home.

We encourage you to reach out to us and ‘ask the expert’ Omar and his colleagues at Mabbett who are available to answer queries and offer advice to employers seeking health and safety support and guidance for their remote workers and those working from home.

Please send your homeworking queries and your Homeworking E-Learning Course enquiries to REALSENSE, in the first instance to kate.lindop@real-sense.com. You can find out more about our business training courses here.

Additional Resources

Mabbett
External link to Mabbett’s website

Citizens Advice Bureau
External link to the Citizen’s Advice Bureau

ACAS – the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service
External link to the ACAS