To mark Mental Health Awareness week 2021, we take a look at the importance of relevant, accessible wellbeing resources in supporting good mental health. 

Mental Health Awareness Week was created 21 years ago by the Mental Health Foundation. It aims to help raise the profile of mental health and focus on achieving good mental health.

Each year, the week features a specific theme and this year it is nature. Mental health charities use the week to raise the profile of mental health in a number of ways. Mind for example, is asking individuals to ‘step up the fight for mental health’. It wants people to share with others why they are fighting for mental health. The organisation is aiming to create a movement for change.

For the team at 5app, the week is an opportunity to reflect on, and discuss, mental health and wellbeing. The process of compiling our end of 2020 review showed us how differently everyone had experienced the pandemic. It also showed how important our wellbeing had become during the first two lockdowns.

For learning and development teams, the pandemic saw a focus on the curation and sharing of relevant wellbeing resources. Employees needed support as they struggled to cope with the pandemic and working from home.

The impact of Covid-19 on our mental health

Research carried out by Mind during the first lockdown in 2020 showed that more than half of adults and over two thirds of young people said that their mental health had worsened during the period of lockdown restrictions.

According to research by the Mental Health Foundation, since the first lockdown, anxiety and worry due to the stress of the pandemic has declined significantly from 62% in March 2020 to 42% in late February 2021.

However, feelings of loneliness have not returned to their pre-lockdown levels at any point over the past year and have risen from 10% in March 2020 to 26% in February 2021.

The Mental Health Foundation research shows that younger people (aged 18-24) suffer the most feelings of loneliness. They also report consistently lower coping levels than the general population (64% in April 2020 dropping to 50% in February 2021). Older people (aged 55 and over) record slightly higher coping (76% in March 2020 to 68% in February 2021).

Employee health and wellbeing will be strained further by the imminent return to work in the UK. Research by Group Risk Development shows that four in five employees currently have health and wellbeing concerns, and 31% say these concerns are related to work.

Asked whether their mental health was better or worse off as a result of the pandemic, 45% of employees responding to a Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development survey said their mental health was worse off, 47% said there had been no change and 8% said their mental health was better off.

It is unclear what the return to work will look like for organisations. A survey of 50 large employers carried out by the BBC shows that 43 will be embracing a mix of home and office work. For most employers, there will be a period of uncertainty as new hybrid ways of working are defined and tested out. This uncertainty will need to be managed well in the light of significant levels of employee anxiety.

This is why employers need to ensure they provide the most relevant, timely wellbeing resources and communicate them effectively to all employees. Effective communication is an essential component in helping employees manage change.

How employers can support mental health and wellbeing

The CIPD’s research shows that employers are using a range of approaches to support employee health and wellbeing in response to Covid-19. They include:

  • More focus on looking after employees’ health 84%
  • More support tailored to individuals’ needs and concerns (such as flexible working) 83%
  • New or better support for people working from home 74%
  • More flexible approach to making workplace adjustments 63%
  • Stronger approach to risk assessment 56%
  • Increased employee wellbeing support or benefits 53%
  • New or better support for employees with caring responsibilities 47%

Providing this support is one thing, effectively promoting mental health and wellbeing resources is an entirely different matter. This is born out in the CIPD research.

The good news is that 77% of respondents say their organisation actively promotes good mental wellbeing (up from 58% in 2020) and 65% say staff are well informed about organisational support for mental health (up from 49% in 2020).

Driving the wellbeing agenda

That said, there is clearly room for improvement here. Key to this is building on, and continuing to drive, the wellbeing agenda, something that 69% of L&D professionals say is now a part of their role as a result of the pandemic.

By using data and insight, learning teams can track in-demand topics across the entire organisation and then respond at pace by curating resources to meet that demand. Use internal wellbeing champions to help gather relevant wellbeing resources as well as seeking out information from credible sources.

Role of learning in supporting mental health and wellbeing

Learning has critical role to play in supporting employee mental health. Curating relevant resources is just the start of the process, however. To ensure the entire organisation is supported, learning teams must make wellbeing resources as accessible as possible. There are two considerations here. First ensure the resources are hosted on a platform that is visible to all employees and that the content is presented in formats that are easy to engage with. Second, target users and communicate regularly with them so that they know what resources are available. Frequent communications will enable you to tell colleagues when you have new resources and updates to share.

This focus on engaging employees around wellbeing will become more important in the hybrid workplace.

Support your managers

According to the CIPD’s research, the second most common cause of stress at work, after volume of work, is management style. Managers need support with their own mental health and wellbeing as well as resources to effectively support their team’s wellbeing. Managers who understand and are engaged with supporting good mental health will in turn help support their team.  If a manager doesn’t consider mental health to be an important issue then it is likely it won’t be discussed. Managers can be the blockers. They can also be the advocates that help build a more caring and inclusive culture around mental good health.

Remember, Covid-19 has created many accidental managers who will need the support of the learning team to get up to speed with how to manage team wellbeing.

Conclusion

Mental Health Awareness Week provides every organisation with an opportunity to reflect on the mental health and wellbeing of all staff. What have you learned from the last 12 months, what worked, what didn’t and why? With the shift to new hybrid ways of working, learning teams will be required to continue supporting all employees with resources to help maintain good mental health.

This will require the provision of accessible, relevant wellbeing resources based on employees’ needs and communicating them effectively and regularly. There is plenty of change facing all organisations. How we respond to that change is what matters. As our head of marketing Gill Frood, said in her reflections on last year: “2020 was a huge lesson in a left-field event knocking us off course that no-one could have predicted. Stuff happens – so it’s important to be open-minded to change and reinvention and kind and empathetic to other people.”

Use a platform that supports your new ways of working and learning and can make wellbeing resources accessible to everyone. The 5App Hub can support your L&D strategy, create a learning culture, and align learning with the business needs and objectives.

Get in touch to find out more.