The Looming “Shadow Pandemic” – 11/08/2021

As employers are now and have started to return their workforce back to the workplace this has now raised many complex areas for both the employer and employees.

In one of our January 2021 Newsletters, we talked about working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown, and in particular the impact on mental health. 

As employers are now and have started to return their workforce back to the workplace this has now raised many complex areas for both the employer and employees. For some returning to the workplace is a welcomed opportunity, but for others is dreaded.

As employers have a duty of care and as we have published over the last 18 months’ the affect that lockdown has had in trying to juggle family life with work life, bereavement, financial difficulties, burnout, zoom fatigue is all too apparent. However, mental health impact remains at the forefront and it isn’t just employees who are suffering, it’s leaders.

Source: MyGrapevine Feature, Kieran Howell 10/08/2021 published the following article on the mental health crisis that is looming and how this is impacting not only on employees, but leaders within organisations.

Brand new data this week revealed that mental health looks to be the next big issue on the leadership agenda.

Otherwise known as ‘the shadow pandemic’, the current mental health crisis is affecting both staff and leaders and may get worse.

But what can leaders, who may themselves be struggling with the weight of poor mental health and burnout, do about it? Read on to find out…

The UK, as with most other countries around the globe, is still reeling from the massive toll of the coronavirus pandemic. Whilst restrictions in England may have eased and infection rates are seemingly on a downturn, new data alleges that the nation is heading towards one of the biggest crises in its history – not due to the virus, but due to mental health.

The data, which was compiled in a recent study by Sanctus, alleges that cases of burnout, depression and workplace anxiety have escalated significantly as a result of the pandemic and current working structures, snowballing into what it called a ‘shadow pandemic’.

Titled ‘Supporting employee mental health in a post-pandemic world’, the report highlights stark figures that indicate mental health challenges are reaching breaking point for many British employees. 60% of adults reported their mental health had worsened during the pandemic.

And when it comes to people’s working lives, 52% of respondents said they had experienced burnout during 2021. In addition, data from the CIPD reported that 37% of workers have taken stress related absences.

‘A new beginning’

James Routledge, founder of Sanctus, noted that the shocking data points to a restructure in how our working lives affect mental health. He said that workers are ‘entering a new beginning’, but that ‘processing the collective experiences we’ve all just been through’ has taken its toll already.

“The mental health impact of COVID-19 and the ‘shadow pandemic’ are very real and we’re about to begin to all feel the shock of that,” he said, adding that: “Supporting employee mental health has never been more challenging or more important.”

Executive mental health at ‘all time low’

Whilst the study from Sanctus focuses on the mental health of employees, it’s important to note that the adverse effects of the past 18 months have not escaped leaders, many of whom were suffering from overwork prior to the pandemic. In fact, recent data from Bupa Global’s Executive Wellbeing Index, executive mental health is at an ‘all time low’. More than three quarters of business leaders have experienced poor mental health during the pandemic.

Additional Benenden Health data recently concluded that 61% of managers have suffered from burnout at work since the UK was first placed into lockdown, with a fifth of all managers considering leaving their roles due to the strain on their mental wellbeing. Over half of respondents cited that they wanted to take time off due to this, but only a fifth were able to do so to take a much-needed break.

Up to 36% said they were unable to take time away from work due to their workload being too high, while 33% said that their team needed them. 32% also stated that they feared taking leave would impact their career progression, and 16% stated that senior management wouldn’t authorise time off.

Role of leaders in the ‘shadow pandemic’

The data evidences the undeniable truth that the workforce, and bosses, are experiencing a mental health and wellbeing crisis, however the onus will be on leaders to find solutions to these issues – something many may struggle to do. However, there is an essential first step in this process that benefits not only staff, but leaders. That is to open up a conversation around their own struggles.

Of the managers quizzed in Benenden Health’s study, out of those who were experiencing burnout, just 20% sought medical support. Similarly, a third of executives have delayed seeking help, with a similar number admitting to finding it hard to talk about their mental health.

Nigel Jones, Chairman, City Mental Health Alliance, noted in a recent essay that by opening up the conversation around mental health and admitting their own struggles, leaders will empower employees to defy the stigma that they themselves struggle to overcome. “Poor mental health and illness doesn’t discriminate. It can happen to any one of us, at any time, including senior business leaders,” he said.

“Stress, anxiety and depression are the biggest causes of sickness absence and can have a devastating impact on the lives of people affected. We need to create mentally healthy, open workplace cultures where even the most senior of staff feel able to access support. Not only will this help them, it will role model healthy behaviours for more junior members of the company,” he concluded.

Black Mountain work with well-respected partners who can provide not only training on mental health, but also provide counselling services and overall wellbeing for you and your workforce.

Our next newsletter will cover recruitment attraction and retention and what your existing employees and future employees are looking for from their employer – it’s not about salaries!

Black Mountain Group

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