Mental health resources during coronavirus

Many of us may feel concerned or anxious, having less control over how we work and live our lives. This is a normal response and there are things you can do to support your own – and other people's – mental health and wellbeing.

Our top tips

  • communicate clearly and openly
  • use and adapt what has worked for you before
  • prioritise looking after yourself and your staff
  • use support that's available


Everyone

4 minutes

Looking after your own mental health

This video explores how you can look after your own mental health, how you can approach conversations with your manager or colleagues and why it's important to talk about how you're feeling.

Abigail Hirshman, Acas head of workplace mental health, speaks to Amit Sen, Acas senior business manager.

[Caption: Abigail and Amit talk about looking after your mental health at work]

Abigail Hirshman: For you, yourself Amit, what would you say are the signs that maybe you need a bit of extra help at times?

Amit Sen: I think one of the issues with being in relative isolation is that our minds don't switch off. So you start to think about usually bad things.

People don't normally think about great things, you know – "I'm going to go and have a swim today", or something like that. You start to think of the more negative things because your overall context – especially if you watch a lot of television, as I do, television news, and so on – is uniformly bleak.

So all sorts of irrational fears come into your mind, which normally you probably wouldn't entertain.

Abigail: Yeah, definitely. So fears and anxieties seem to grow on each other.

So in terms of a more practical support from the organisation that you work for – that your colleagues, or you know, other people you know work for – what would you say may be helpful, then, to find out from their line manager when they're feeling like this? What sort of conversations would be helpful?

Amit: So I think the secret, I would say – and I understand that this would vary from one person to another – is to have informal conversations as normally as you normally would. And the other thing I would say is have them frequently.

I think the worst thing is to do is just sit there, week after week, feeling miserable. And then when you're really feeling down, suddenly, to phone a colleague or your boss or whoever it might be, and share those views then. I think the real secret is to keep in relatively regular touch. Because that's the key, I think, to maintaining a degree of normality. Rather than let things just drift.

Abigail: Yeah. And that is absolutely spot on. I mean, it's essentially about having those sort of organic conversations where things about mental health and wellbeing – what you're doing to keep yourself well, and what's concerning you – just come up naturally in those interactions. So the more you have, the more likely you are to have those conversations.

And to get in early, as you said, before it starts to seem really difficult, actually. And then it's much harder to voice those concerns, when they've started to sort of grow in your mind.

Amit: That's right.

Abigail: And in terms of people who maybe are less confident, or less articulate, or less able to ask those questions of their manager: is there any advice that you would give to somebody who maybe is new to the workplace, or less confident to be able to have those conversations?

Amit: It is good to be able to speak to your line manager, let's say. But you also have to recognise that line managers may not necessarily be the best person, always, in a particular situation. Are there friends in whom you can trust to confide in, or colleagues?

Use the available resources that you have. I mean, to take another example: I talk to my son pretty much every day, even though he's overseas at the moment. My advice would be, think of who you are comfortable with. And try and bring those people into your sort of environment, into your sort of electronic world, and engage with them to the extent that you want and to the extent that you need.

And the other thing I would say is: you might be able to help them. It's not always a one-way thing. You may be able to help them.

Abigail: So I'm really glad to hear from you today Amit. I think you've really given some great tips for colleagues and employers and employees who listen to this. Thank you very much.

Amit: My pleasure. Good talking to you, Abigail. Thanks a lot.

Abigail: Bye.

Amit: Bye.

[Caption: For more guidance on mental health: www.acas.org.uk/coronavirus-mental-health]

Our tips for everyone

  • reflect on what makes you feel more positive
  • keep in touch with people regularly, including your manager
  • get support if you need to, in a way that works for you
  • have a routine and structure your day with activities you enjoy
  • look out for and support other people

Podcast on strengthening your resilience

Our resilience has a significant impact on how we work and how we feel at work. Francoise Woolley, head of mental health and wellbeing at Acas, shares her insights into the small but powerful steps we can take to strengthen our resilience.

Listen to 'Top tips to strengthen your resilience'


Managers

2 minutes 30 seconds

Supporting your staff's mental health

This video looks at how line managers can support staff, how to respond when someone is struggling and the importance of looking after our own mental health.

Julie Dennis, Acas head of diversity and inclusion, speaks to Abigail Hirshman, Acas head of workplace mental health.

Abigail Hirshman: Hello, Julie! It's really nice to see you. How are you?

Julie Dennis: I'm fine, Abigail, it's lovely to see you as well today.

Abigail: Good, good. So I'm really glad that you're here to talk to us about managing mental health, because I think it's been clear for quite some time how important managers are in promoting and supporting good mental health at work. And given the current situation, this is now even more important.

And I'm just wondering, you know, how you as a manager – or your management colleagues – what they're doing to keep themselves well, and make sure that they maintain their boundaries, and make sure that they keep themselves well during this time.

Julie: So I think one of the first key things we need to remember, as managers: we are people as well. And I think it's remembering that you cannot help others if you're not helping yourself.

It's like, you know, the oxygen mask scenario. You'd always put your mask on first before somebody else, because you'd be no good to anyone. So it's about making sure that you look after your own health and your own mental health during this time.

From a personal point of view, I'm finding that chocolate is really helping, you know. But actually being able to talk to your peers, you know. I'm really lucky at Acas, I work alongside a fantastic leadership team. And I can talk to them and they talk to me, and we make sure that we look after each other.

But it's also be able to recognise that you will not have all the answers. Some of the things that have happened since this pandemic, there are things that we never would have imagined we'd have to do and you're not expected to know the answers. But I think it's proved to us as human beings, how versatile we are, how we've been able to adapt to different situations.

So I think it's, you know, don't beat yourself up if you don't know the answer. If you're dealing with an issue, remember that you can always go and get advice yourself. And be kind to yourself! Give yourself a break. And like I say, it is hard at the moment, but laughter is another thing that's got me through as a line manager. So again, when you're having those virtual catch ups with your team, adding some fun into that, again, will do you good as well as your people.

Abigail: Excellent, excellent advice. So I think, laughter, chocolate and kindness are what I'm going to take away from this discussion.

Julie: Definitely.

[Caption: For more guidance on mental health: www.acas.org.uk/coronavirus-mental-health]

Our tips for managers

  • do not make assumptions
  • keep in regular contact with your staff
  • agree clear expectations and boundaries
  • reassure staff that their safety is the priority
  • look after yourself and get support if you need to

Training and events for managers – mental health

Our training courses, events and conferences can help you manage mental health at work during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Book training in mental health at work


Employers

3 minutes

Supporting positive mental health at work

In this video, we look at how employers can support good mental health, why it matters and actions they can take to prepare their organisation and their people for times ahead.

Sarah Guthrie, Acas communications manager, speaks to Abigail Hirshman, Acas head of workplace mental health.

Sarah Guthrie: Thanks for joining me to talk about mental health today. And we're specifically focusing on employers. So what can employers be doing as leaders to help their people through these difficult times and to support their wellbeing?

Abigail Hirshman: We would always have said this: there is no doubt that employers who actively show they're serious about the importance of positive mental health at work will have a really significant impact.

Essentially, the more you talk about mental health, the more others will talk about it, and talking about mental health normalises it. And this means that when people feel they're struggling a bit, they're much more likely to reach out for extra support, because they feel it's a safe environment in which to do that – because it's something that gets talked about on a daily basis: how we're feeling, how we're coping, what we're doing to keep ourselves well.

And the earlier that people reach out, the earlier they're able to get support. And we know that there are… The 1 in 4 stat is: 1 in 4 people experience a mental health problem. It's a fact, and it's not a blip. So the more conversations we have, the more people will reach out, the earlier we can put in support, and then it reduces the risk of either that person going off, you know, with a sickness absence. Or if they do happen to go off, that they don't go off as long and they stay connected to the workplace because they know those conversations are healthy and natural and normal to have.

And these types of conversations essentially build a culture of openness and respect and trust, which increases rapport. And especially at this time, it's about the things that we can do to increase that sense of connection and belonging – with our social groups and with our workplaces – are going to be absolutely essential.

But I think in terms of leaders and employers particularly, what they also need to be aware of is the parts of the business where the environment itself can impact on mental health.

So we know the stresses and concerns and anxieties people have around the pandemic. But what about in the workplace, where there may be some touch points or some areas where maybe work demands have risen significantly, or where their relationships maybe have broken down? Or maybe people don't feel they have as much control or autonomy as they used to have. So those normal areas of the business that the employer can influence and help keep people… ensure that people's wellbeing is not affected unduly by things that actually are within that employer's ability to control.

Sarah: Ok, so it sounds like it's a useful thing for employers not just to focus on the things outside of their control and managing almost the symptoms of that, but also to think what are the causes or other things within my control that would reduce stress levels or anxiety for my workforce generally.

Abigail: Yeah, absolutely. It's about thinking about the 4 in 4. It's about thinking: everybody in the workplace – is this a healthy environment for people to be in?

[Caption: For more guidance on mental health: www.acas.org.uk/coronavirus-mental-health]

Our tips for employers

  • adapt what has worked before
  • help managers support their staff
  • listen to and address staff concerns
  • encourage people to talk about mental health
  • communicate clearly, often and honestly

Podcasts on how to improve wellbeing at work

Workplace wellbeing strategy in practice – with the Ministry of Defence

Finding the best way of improving wellbeing in your team or organisation can be challenging. In this podcast, Martin Short from the Ministry of Defence shares how he created a wellbeing strategy using the Acas framework for positive mental health, and how you can influence others in your organisation to make wellbeing a priority.

Listen to 'Workplace wellbeing strategy in practice'

The business of mental wellbeing – with Fujitsu

Evidence shows that investing in mental wellbeing at work brings significant benefits. Sarah-Jane Littleford from Fujitsu shares how to overcome stigma when talking about mental health and what that looks like in practice for Fujitsu during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Listen to 'The business of mental wellbeing'

For every £1 spent on mental health, organisations get £5 back on average

More helpful resources

Training and events – mental health

Our training courses, events and conferences can help you manage mental health at work during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Book training in mental health at work

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