World Mental Health Day: Employee support during the staffing crisis

Ahead of World Mental Health day on 10th October, employee engagement and benefits service, Wrkit, is urging employers to consider the mental health implications of short staffing on current employees.

Stressed manager in office amid empty desks on phone
The theme of this year’s World Mental Health Day is "Mental Health in an Unequal World". It falls as the UK is facing a staffing crisis with job vacancies at sky-high levels and severe skills shortages affecting supply chains.Employee engagement and benefits service, Wrkit, is therefore urging employers to consider the mental health implications of short staffing on current employees.It advises how to offer extra support during this time, which will aid with employee satisfaction, productivity, engagement and retention.
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Employee burnout and the pandemic

Jason Brennan, Director of Leadership and Wellness at Wrkit, comments, “Between May and July 2021, job vacancies in the UK grew by 43.8% against the previous quarter, resulting in almost a million total vacancies – an all-time high.“We are seeing some of the implications of this on consumers with empty supermarket shelves and queues at petrol stations, but the crisis could also have a detrimental effect on employee wellbeing.“Discourse around mental health, and particularly burnout, has certainly picked up throughout the pandemic as people got used to working longer hours whilst dealing with the stress of living through a global pandemic.“Incidences of workers burning out and needing to take time off work have been prevalent, especially among healthcare staff, with mental health-related absences reported to have cost the NHS £805 million from January 2020 to June 2021.”

Stress and working hours

“Now, widespread staff shortages will mean that employees are forced to pick up extra work, work longer hours and take on more responsibility to plug in the gaps, and this raises serious concerns about long-term stress that will lead to stress related issues,” continues Jason Brennan.“This year for World Mental Health Day, we are asking employers to be conscious of their employees’ mental health and wellbeing.“Are employees having to pick up a lot of extra work to fill in for vacant jobs, illnesses and holidays? Is this resulting in long hours and increased pressure? If so, are they receiving the recognition and rewards they deserve to ensure they feel valued and appreciated?"It is also important to recognise that the pressure will be felt by managers as well as staff.”

Employer duty of care and workplace pressure

“Unfortunately, with the pressures on staffing at the moment, larger volumes of work and longer hours are perhaps an inevitability, but as part of an employer’s duty of care, extra support needs to be made available,” says Jason Brennan.“This could include mental wellbeing resources, such as mindfulness tools, access to professional support when needed and self-help guides.“Encouraging employees to maintain a healthy work-life balance, unhooking and taking time away from their job and ensuring they are getting enough exercise and sleep will also go a long way in supporting overall wellness.“Employers should also strive to create an environment in which employees can openly discuss issues with a trusted person before they culminate into serious problems and there should be flexibility and understanding to ensure employees’ needs are met whilst the country recovers from current challenges.“This kind of atmosphere will help employees to feel valued, recognised, listened to and cared for, boosting employee satisfaction and leading to higher levels of retention and improved employer brand, keeping staffing issues to a minimum.”

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