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The impact of lockdown on our mental health

By Maureen Lynch, Director of Hays Ireland

In these unusual times, isolation and uncertainty can cause anxiety and stress – and this can be even harder on those who are already struggling with their mental health.

To gain insight over how professionals are coping, we recently carried out a survey of over 1,700 professionals across Ireland. Our findings showed that since lockdown was enforced wellbeing has fallen. Just over two thirds (64%) rated their wellbeing as positive before these restrictions were put in place – but only 39% said it was still positive since lockdown.

The negative effect of lockdown was most commonly identified as the lack of social interaction, as noted by 31% of respondents, followed by isolation/loneliness (12%) and boredom (10%). An increase in workload was a factor for 9% of respondents and looking after children was a concern for 8%. Only 6% stated they had no challenges, and many said that their work-support network had changed and they were now more distant with colleagues and leadership.

We all need to consider how maintaining good mental health and wellbeing amongst our teams and wider workforce can be achieved - and how to create and contribute towards a mentally healthy workplace. With that in mind, here are some things we can do to help ourselves and our teams cope with the challenging times we now find ourselves in.

Employers should lead by example, be transparent and encourage better work-life balance

  • Effective, honest and regular communication should be the bedrock of your Covid-19 pandemic response, no matter what stage of lockdown we are in. Make sure you update your workforce regularly on any upcoming plans to alleviate stress caused by uncertainty.
  • Managers may think they know how their teams are coping, but the truth is that everyone’s experience of the pandemic and the resultant lockdown has been different. You should seek to assess the impact the crisis has had on staff wellbeing either by short surveys or for with less formal one-to-one interviews. Show that you are listening.
  • Be frank and transparent in discussions and find out what is most affecting your teams’ wellbeing. Foster an open and trustworthy culture that allows your staff to be honest in their feedback. This will better allow you to tailor your response and offer wellbeing training, counselling or extra support where needed.
  • While Covid-19 and the uncertainty and anxiety continue, bolster your employee support networks. Give your staff the opportunity for more conversations with leadership, schedule more social events over video calls to instil comradery and let them know they are being heard by key decision-makers.

Employees should make full use of benefits available and prioritise a work-support network

  • Be aware of your own wellbeing and accept help when it’s offered. If your employer offers wellbeing training, make time to take advantage of this. Or, they might have mental health first aiders or counselling services that you can access to help. Look into what resources are available to you.
  • Make sure you’re maintaining a good work-life balance. Set clear boundaries between work time and leisure time to avoid burnout. Exercise is important to me, so I always make sure I find the time to get out on my bike or go for a run.
  • Communicate more. Is your employer aware of your current situation and the challenges impacting your wellbeing? Do you have any concerns about transitioning back to work? These are all things you should raise with your manager to help them support your wellbeing.
  • Offer support to others. Having a support network between colleagues is vital. Stay social, maintain the relationships you had at the workplace and let your teammates know you’re there to help if they need. Asking how somebody is before you address work matters is a simple way of checking in with your colleagues.

Whether managing a team or looking for ways to improve your own mental health, we should all be mindful of further changes ahead. We are not out of the woods yet and colleagues will need our support. If we keep our focus on doing the right thing and are open and honest about what we’re doing, we’ll be better placed to support our own mental health and that of others.

About this author

With over 20 years’ experience in the recruitment industry, Maureen believes a strong relationship is at the heart of recruitment. This approach allows her to create innovative recruitment solutions reflecting her clients’ desire to grow their teams, while also working closely with individuals looking to take the next step in their careers. Maureen began her Hays career in our Senior Finance division and is now the Director of Operations for our offices in Cork, Limerick and Galway, managing our finance, construction & property, financial services, operations & administration support and IT functions. Maureen also takes the lead for Hays Ireland Diversity & Inclusion initiatives creating and implementing diverse recruitment strategies that effectively support the representation of more diverse staff profiles both within Hays Ireland and in the organisations with whom we work.

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