Open Letter – A Voice For Mental Health in the Workplace

Open Letter – A Voice For Mental Health in the Workplace

May 2020

An urgent appeal from TalkOut to the UK government and business leaders.

It’s time for some tough questions.

 

Before I begin with my reasons for writing this letter, I would like to express my heartfelt condolences to the families, friends and colleagues who are grieving the loss of a loved one. Not only are we mourning thousands of lives, but we are living through a crisis and preparing for the unknown.

High levels of stress and anxiety are a natural reaction to threat and as a nation we were working to tackle the mental health crisis long before the pandemic. Sadly, for many the enormity of the current crisis has exacerbated mental health issues and affected others who have never experienced problems before.

That’s why I’m appealing to senior government leaders and business owners to act now and prevent a mental health fallout post-lockdown.

Mental health has been on the business agenda for some time, but if there’s one thing this crisis has made clear, it’s that there is still a long way to go when it comes to providing effective support to employees.

A positive and supportive workplace can make all the difference when it comes to mental health and now more than ever, businesses have a duty of care to their workforce. However, clear guidance on how to provide that has been missing from the advice issued by the government to UK businesses – despite the enormity of the changes.

Indeed, in the most recent guidance from the government – the ‘Plan to Rebuild’ – mental health is only referenced in three instances. It’s a fifty page strategy document, detailing physical distancing measures to keep workers safe, and yet it only touches on the long term impact on mental health in the workplace if lockdown continues. It doesn’t encourage business leaders to take an active role in supporting the wellbeing of workers which I feel is of equal importance.

Unfortunately, whilst businesses were quick to adapt to social distancing, working from home and hygiene rules, for many, the emotional wellbeing of employees was an afterthought.
Workplace culture needs to change and it’s vital that businesses take their responsibility in supporting employees with their mental health seriously. The psychological strain of the crisis is impossible to ignore and whether staff have been working on the frontline, furloughed or working from home whilst homeschooling, it’s likely to have a long term impact.

In time, Britain will come to review its response to the Coronavirus pandemic, but mental health can’t wait. As businesses continue to navigate these unchartered waters, they will learn that timely action is required to minimise the impact on mental health within their workforce. Only by being open and honest with how we have acted, will we make a real difference going forward.

It’s time to make a profound change and we’re urging leaders who answer ‘no’ to any of the following questions to get in touch with us today.

● Was mental health a key strategic priority from the early stages of the outbreak?
● Did you give mental health as much consideration as you did physical health or financial matters?
● Did you provide guidance on safeguarding employee mental health?
● Did you speak openly about mental health in the workplace, including personal experiences?
● Have you maintained regular contact with your furloughed employees to check on their wellbeing?
● Have you given thought to what you could have done better?
● Do you feel prepared for the likely mental health fallout?

 

Thank you for taking the time to listen and I hope that together we can make a positive impact.

Kindest Regards,

Jill Mead, Co-Founder and Managing Director at TalkOut

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