Mental health in the workplace post-pandemic
As it’s mental health awareness week, I wanted to talk a little bit about the pandemic. I know what you might be thinking – old news! We’re over that now. Lockdowns were last year.
The thing is, we’re kind of not over it. Not really.
We experienced a global pandemic. It was scary. It changed everything. It was a collective trauma.
I’m not trying to say everyone is traumatised and should still be freaking out about it, but what I am saying is that if you are feeling a bit traumatised and you are still freaking out about it, that’s okay!
Particularly when it comes to working life, I feel like there’s been this big shift to a ‘new normal’, with emphasis on the normal. Everyone is writing about how the pandemic changed work-life forever, hybrid working is the new thing and businesses are finally taking care of their employees’ mental wellbeing. The new normal has been established, or at least that’s what you’d think based on the discussion that seems to be going on.
All that is great and everything, but I think trying to revert to any kind of normal after such a big event, even if it is a ‘new normal’, is a bad idea. We don’t have a normal right now. Not really. We’re still figuring it out.
Hybrid working isn’t the answer to everything. Neither is a forced return to the office. Employers need to be thinking about the wider implications of the pandemic. It’s not just about a changed way of working. It’s about a changed way of thinking. Increased anxiety perhaps. Lack of a sense of security. A struggle to draw upon creativity. Dealing with feelings of grief and loss. Feeling distracted and struggling to focus. Having to draw on different inspirations and motivations.
Some employees may be dealing with these feelings in a way they never have before. I’ve seen a lot of articles talking about how to re-energise a disengaged workforce and all sorts, but I often don’t think these articles are quite getting it right. They often talk about employee incentives and hybrid working. I think it’s more about empathy and communication.
I know I work for a communications agency, and so of course I’d say communication is necessary, but I genuinely believe now is not a time to forge ahead with this ‘new normal’. It’s time to reflect and put learnings into practice. It’s time to allow ourselves to adjust and recover. At work as well as at home.
The media landscape has changed, how I work has changed, how the team I’m a part of works has changed, my work/life split has changed. I have changed. And I’m still trying to work out what that looks like moving forward. Especially in my work. Aren’t we all?
Managing your own mental health at work post-pandemic
Things are weird. We’re in an in-between. We’re trying to get back to it but everything is a bit different. So, what do we do about it? Here’s some of my top tips for managing your own mental wellbeing at work in this post-pandemic world.
Switch it up
Trying to do things the way you did them before probably isn’t going to work. Switch it up. As much of it as you can. Try organising your to do list in a different way. Go somewhere different on your lunch break. Try approaching your daily tasks from a different angle.
I found that when I tried to do things the way I used to do them, it just didn’t work anymore – my brain required a different kind of stimulation. Again, I’m not saying you can’t have your comforting pre-pandemic habits and routines, but just know that when the world changes you’re allowed to change with it.
Be as honest as you can be with your employer and colleagues
I think the pandemic really reminded us that in order to get support, we have to be upfront about what we’re going through. It’s easy when everyone is in the same boat (pandemic chaos) but it’s harder when you have to convey something that feels more personal to you. I get that. The thing is, your ‘best’ at work will change depending on the day and what you’re dealing with in life. Your ‘best’ one day will be different on a day when you got some horrible family news or you have a funeral coming up on the weekend. I’m not suggesting you have to disclose your entire personal life to your employer, but if you’re struggling with something, have a chat with them about it and let them know if there’s anything they can do to help you perform your ‘best’ despite what’s going on.
I’ve said it a lot already, but everything has changed and holding on to expectations from the before times isn’t helpful or healthy. The likelihood is your industry has been through some change, your role may have changed slightly and where you fit into the wider landscape/ wider company may have changed slightly.
I can’t go into PR pitches expecting to get coverage anymore. It doesn’t work that way. Journalists are under a lot of pressure. Publications are struggling financially. The kind of news that gets views has shifted. Again, the world has changed and so I have had to change my approach.
Also, perhaps most important of all. Scrap expectations you have of yourself. Again, I’m not suggesting you slack off and give up, I’m saying learn to set new expectations based on the post-pandemic world we all find ourselves in.
What employers can do to help employees with their mental health at work post-pandemic
Switch it up
If your employees have to switch it up then you most certainly will need to as well. Be flexible with your approach, and attack problems with the post-pandemic world in mind. Try leading in a new way and think about what your employees need from you now that they may not have pre-pandemic.
Remember your employees are feeling beings
I know you likely already know this, but your employees are not batteries to be recharged. They’re not a ‘disengaged workforce’. They’re people. They’re individuals. The only way you’re going to see that ‘energy’ return is by giving it time, asking employees and listening to what they need, adjusting your approach and creating space for exploration.
This encompasses both of the points above. Again, it’s not about letting employees take advantage or letting standards slip. It’s about adjusting your expectations in accordance with the current situation. Seize this opportunity for a fresh start. Refocus. Recalibrate. Reassess.
Mental health awareness is something incredibly important to us here at Carnsight. Read our post from last year’s awareness week here.