Since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, stress and mental health issues have been on the rise. Qualtrics research shows that 49% of UK workers have admitted they’ve seen a decline in their mental health since working from home.

Even though May was Mental Health Awareness Month, it’s just as relevant as ever to talk about supporting the mental health of employees. However, often overlooked is the well-being of those who look after everyone — the HR team.

In a recent Qualtrics global study of 2,700 workers, 67% of people reported higher stress, 57% claimed to be feeling greater anxiety and 53% said that they feel more emotionally exhausted. Usually, when a team is experiencing challenges at work, the HR or People team is the first port of call. However, it’s important to remember that these teams need support too — it’s a case of being able to practice what you preach. So, how can these people-facing teams better support their own well-being in these stressful times?

Check in with your team…and yourself

HR teams already know how crucial it can be to regularly check in with teams, especially during a period where face-to-face is not possible. By nature, HR leaders will be caring and people-focused, often putting the needs of others before their own. In order for businesses to remain on track, leaders need to recognise the importance of encouraging these people-focused teams to look after themselves as well.

Recent Qualtrics statistics show that 25% of UK workers are currently worrying about their job and those who sit within Human Resources are no different to any other employee. It’s all too easy to forget your own needs while you’re prioritising the requests or issues of others. When it comes to monitoring for signs of stress or anxiety, HR team members are usually well-trained in this area. So, next time they’re doing a check-in, they should add their own well-being to the list: watching out for feeling tired, irritable and argumentative. Other symptoms include struggling to perform tasks and a loss of humour. While we all experience these feelings from time to time, this should not become a regular habit. So, what can individuals do should they spot these warning signs?

Taking time off

We’re all at risk of burnout right now. With summer holiday plans being cancelled or postponed indefinitely and many communities still in strict lockdown measures, many are avoiding booking time off, trying to tough it out until this all passes

However, by waiting, we could just be making it worse. In fact, one of the best things you can do for yourself is take a step back and take some time off work — even if this is just a day to make a longer weekend. It’s natural to worry about handing over work and taking a day off when your to-do list is spiralling often feels like it will only add to the stress, but you owe it to your well-being to have some ‘me time’.

With one in five UK workers claiming that their organisation’s actions have had a negative impact on their mental health, business leaders should also be leading the charge in ensuring this happens for the wellbeing of every employee.

Unsurprisingly, stress has been linked to forgetfulness, a loss of confidence and increased indecision Experiencing too much stress can make us doubt ourselves or question the decisions we make, which in turn can have a negative impact on our confidence at work and eventually, in the way the business performs. This is compounded by long working hours that HR and people teams are currently reporting. 

Removing the stigma

Although in recent years measures have been taken to overcome the stigma of mental health, there’s still a taboo of silence that surrounds the subject, particularly at work. This is even more of an issue if you’re part of the team that’s meant to be supporting others through their stress.

As a starting point, HR teams should create an open forum at work where people feel that it’s not only acceptable to talk about their distress, but crucially that they won’t get judged or penalised for doing so.

Feeling like you can openly discuss what you’re going through and share your story can only make you feel stronger. At the same time, this will also give people in both your team and the wider organisation the ‘permission’ to come forward and share their own issues, struggles or concerns.

Make the most of technology

One of the biggest problems with stress and mental health is how circular it can be. When we’re stressed and anxious, we end up sleeping poorly, which can exacerbate these feelings of unease.

While technology is often cited as an enemy of a good night’s sleep, there are numerous apps that can be effective in making help and advice more accessible. Especially when there aren’t enough hours in the day.

While it may sound trite, a problem shared really is a problem halved. While HR teams are used to being listeners, there’s nothing wrong with wanting to focus on your own worries and having someone take the time to hear your issues.

Sometimes stress becomes unmanageable because it builds up to a point where it feels overwhelming. But knowing who to talk to can be difficult, particularly if you feel like your manager or colleagues won’t understand, or if you feel your family are equally as worried or stressed by the situation. Don’t be afraid to talk to a professional if you feel like you need support.

Above all, prioritise your own mental health. If you’re not feeling well-rested, positive, and calm, it’ll be very hard for you to support others. Business leaders need to know that the best way to understand how every member of their team is doing is to ask them. By using technology that uncovers what’s worrying your people or putting up barriers to getting back to work, everyone can benefit.


Original article ‘Don’t forget HR teams need looking after too in these turbulent times’ Written by Catherine Thurtle Published by The HR Director


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