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13 May 2021

Mental Health and the transition back to work after Covid

Barry Fitzpatrick, Managing Director, Route 80/37

There is no doubt, this years Mental Health Awareness Week holds a much different meaning for potentially a new and more captive audience than ever. Following the past year of Covid restrictions mental health has had a more consistent focus – on the news, in social media, in the workplace. And rightly so.

There will be certain people who have experienced poor mental health for the first time, who do not know what to do. There will be people who have suffered mental ill health for years but have only done something about it for the first time because of Covid. There will be people that have had poor mental health for an exceptionally long time who have finally hit rock bottom because of Covid. And somehow, we need to try and address all these scenarios as well as the usual themes such as stigma, misdiagnosis, miseducation of mental health concepts, no education on mental health concepts - amongst others.

As with any recovery plan in mental health and beyond – it is best not to try and change everything all at once. Break it down into small manageable goals and keep focused on moving forward – regardless of the size of the step – you are making progress.

So, in the spirit of raising awareness this week, as an example, lets focus on the small business arena which I operate in. What do the next steps around coming out of Covid restrictions look like? Are there simple examples where we might encounter potential issues both personally and as an employer? Let us think about the few scenarios outlined below as a starting point.

 

Small Business Owners First Big Decision

For single person operators, it might be making the decision to come off furlough but ensure enough cash is flowing through the business again to not only pay your wage and keep putting food on the table for your family, but simply keep the business itself operating in a post Covid world. The anxiety caused around this solitary decision may be enough derail even the most resilient of us. And this is just the first step. How will we plan to deal with the instability this might cause our wellbeing?

What Now for Meetings?

1 year of track suit wearing Zoom calls on - how comfortable will you or members of your team be travelling up and down the country in trains and planes again to attend customer meetings and expos in person. And in those meeting how or what is the new social etiquette? Should we shake hands – what if we do not want to shake hands, will the other person think us rude or overly cautious? Because when I was younger, I was always told to look someone in the eyes and shake firmly – said all our past mentors. 3 simple questions that may fill someone with dread in today’s business world.

Office Based or Home Based?

Or what if we are bringing people back to the office, and what if some people are not comfortable interacting in the same way as before – what if they do not want to be in an office at all? What if they have their own stipulations above and beyond the legal requirements that might then affect how the rest of the team can connect and interact?

 

These are just a few examples of the types of things we may be personally dealing with or not prepared for yet when dealing with employees and colleagues in a post restrictions world of work – regardless of the size of the business.

Take this week, Mental Health Awareness week to ask the right questions - are you ready? - are your people ready? And if they are not, that is ok – acknowledging and discussing the issues is the first step. Thinking about and acknowledging people as individuals is our route forward, more so now than ever. Think about the practicalities around these previously normal day to day activities and how they have changed for all of us – this is the first step toward moving forward again.

And as someone who constantly battles with poor mental health, anxiety, and personality disorders I do not yet have the answers for myself.

However, as a society and in our context – as business leaders – we cannot be afraid to acknowledge the difficult questions we might not yet have the answer to and work together to come up with the best solutions. In that exploration, we will no doubt learn enough about both ourselves and others that might just help 1 person and for me helping 1 person is the truest form of success.

If you would like to read more or learn about some simple solutions as to how you might prepare better for the above discussed examples and beyond – please get in touch at www.route8037.co.uk.  

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