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Dealing with Mental Health and Employment during a Pandemic

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Lea Randalls

Since Monday the 19th of October, more than £12,000,000 (12 million), has been made available to support 9,000 people find work, develop new skills, and retrain to enhance their chances of securing a new job. The West London Alliance, which includes Hillingdon, has welcomed the additional funding. As of September 2020, 8.1% of London’s residents were claiming benefits compared to 6.5% across the rest of the UK. This 8.1% equates to 77,500 extra claimants. As of July 2020, there were over 363,000 people across the west London alliance boroughs on furlough. Which is more than a quarter of London’s total!

The labour market in London has been hit harder by Covid-19 than the rest of the UK, while the capital’s economic recovery has also been weaker. A review of London’s economy shows there have been huge falls in the number of workers on company payrolls in the capital, and in the number of new job postings than elsewhere in the country. By October, there had also been a 170% increase in the number of people in London claiming unemployment-related benefits. Across the UK, new unemployment-related claims increased by 120% over the same period


 

With this huge number of unemployment, it is important that we look after the mental health of the unemployed, as well as the employees who have kept their jobs. Not having a job can also impact on someone’s sense of identity, financial situation, weekly routine, and social participation. For some people this leads to problems, such as withdrawing from day to day activities and generally not looking after their health.

We have all been going through a global pandemic together and for some people this time of isolation has felt very lonely. The pandemic has affected day to day normalities for everyone and will have impacted many aspects of people’s lives.

The pandemic has also affected a lot of people’s mental health whether they are employed or unemployed. In this blog, there are some tips and tricks on how you can improve your mental health, as well as supporting your employees and colleague’s mental health.

You must be kind to yourself; it can be easy to talk negatively to yourself. The first step is to challenge the negative thoughts you might have. It is also important to keep your daily routine.  You might find you can easily lose momentum when you do not have the structure of being employed. Following a routine will help you to be more productive, and you will be able to maintain a healthy rhythm in your life, which in turn could lead to a new job opportunity.

Create a job search plan. It is easy to get overwhelmed by job hunting. Try breaking big goals into small, manageable tasks, such as re-doing your CV and applying for jobs. If you have a plan you should hopefully find you are more organised and motivated with your job search. 

Staying Healthy! The saying ‘a healthy mind lives in a healthy body’ is true if you are going through a period of unemployment. Try to exercise regularly and maintain a healthy diet. If you have a healthy mind, the chances are you will be more successful in your job search. This clear mind will allow you to clearly assess what is important for you in your next employment venture.

You must remember the positives!! Try writing a list of all the moments where you have succeeded! Write down a list of positive traits you hold, this will give you a confident boost, which will shine through during your interview process and in turn the employer will be drawn to your positive mindset.

It is important to remember that we have to look after everyone’s mental health, including those who are still employed. These recent times have been challenging for everyone, and it has affected everyone differently. People who are still employed might have also gone through uncertainties such as being placed on furlough and in some cases overthinking that their employment might be at risk of redundancy. Employers should take into consideration that their employees have been through a global pandemic and should be much more conscious of their employees’ health and wellbeing.

A good step is for companies to encourage managers to have open conversations with their employees.  It is crucial for staff members to have a plan of action implemented and encouragement from managers to keep motivated and on task with their assignments. Ensuring praise is given for successful tasks is an easy way to boost team morale.

Something else that employers can do to encourage team interaction is to host fun virtual activities. For employees who have been working from home it can be quite isolating, especially if they are used to being surrounded by their colleagues Monday through Friday. People have been missing out on the social aspect of work, such as casual chit chat in the office, sharing ideas and in some cases socialising after work.

We cannot forget about the people who are now working from home. This has been a massive change for someone that is used to working from an office. Their routines have been completely turned upside down. There are many benefits of physically going into the office which you might not have given much thought to before, including a chance to reflect or relax during their daily commute, having their own purpose built workspace, interacting with colleagues and generally having time away from home. Here are some tips for those who are now working from home and are finding it difficult to separate their work and home life.

Keep the same routine. If your contracted working hours mean you finish at 5pm, then when 5pm comes around, switch off your computer/ laptop and put it away in a separate room so that you cannot reach for it anymore.

Remove your emails from your phone. It is very easy to hear a notification on your phone from work and think that you will just quickly answer it but this can be a slippery slope and before you know it a few hours have passed and you are back in the thick of it. So, make sure you remove your emails, meaning at the end of the day it is easier to switch off and relax.

Creating a workspace. If you are working from home, then you know it is very tempting to grab your laptop and work from your bed or the sofa. But try to set up an area in your home at a table or desk, where you can have your computer/laptop. So, you can differentiate your work time and your free time.

Set boundaries. You may want to take on as much work as you can, but there is only so much you can complete in a day. Know your limitations and set boundaries based on your schedule and workload.

Get up! Get dressed! Get motivated! It can be tempting to work in your pyjamas, but it is not always beneficial. This doesn’t mean that you have to put on a suit, but changing out of the clothes you sleep in, tells your body and mind that it’s time to start working and that you’re switching from one part of your day to another.

We hope that you can take something from our blog on how to support your own mental health or your employee’s mental health during these testing times. Make sure you reach out to someone if you are struggling or if you see a colleague going through a hard time. Share this blog with your colleagues, family and friends. You never know when someone is going through a hard time and having some tips that could improve their mental health, could go a long way.