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Mental wellbeing to the frontline of the 2021 workplace strategic agenda

It’s undeniable that covid-19 impacted mental health. Not just at home, but in the workplace. The stats say it all: 75% of US employees struggled with anxiety caused by covid-19. In the UK, almost half (45%) of the population reported feeling anxious or worried, rising to 64% for those with a pre-existing mental health condition. Only 56% of UK workers were offered support by their workplaces - but six months after covid-19 hit.

The hardest-hit generations out of the pandemic have been our younger gens: Millennials and Gen Z. With millennials already having high reported mental health issues amongst any generation, the consequence of these findings are huge. Especially when younger gens will make up to 75% of the global workforce in the next five years.

The challenge that business leaders face in 2021 will be the rising rates of mental health and how to effectively manage this. While various governments have allocated funding toward mental health initiatives, this alone isn’t enough to make an impact. Uncertainty, fear and anxiety around the pandemic and what 2021 will bring is still present. The strain of mental health challenges within society will continue.

Workplaces, in particular, should be rising to meet the challenge and setting up structures to support their teams.

Managing challenges always begins with awareness. For workplaces, adopting simple strategies like the below are a great start.

  • Put the issue on the table for discussion. Leaders must be aware of the current reality, accept that challenges exist and recognize that action needs to be taken.

  • Identify the impact. If the problem isn’t “obvious” leaders need to be looking at team performance, behaviour, and attitude. Are there changes? What’s the vibe of the culture? Are people still performing? What’s the rate of absenteeism or sick leave?

  • Identify areas of change. Intentional questions must be asked: Are the right leaders in place who have the required EQ and are willing and able to listen? Are the right strategies, or policies in place? What kind of support networks and services are available.

  • Implement changes. Committing to positive action and investing in teams is vital. The ripple effect of providing the right mental health support will pay dividends in return.

Mental health matters. We need to work together – all of us – to continue to raise awareness and support those in need. We all have a responsibility when it comes to mental health and for 2021, the burden of that responsibility will be with workplaces.


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