Mental health, as with our physical health, is something we all need to look after. Statistically, one in four of us will experience a mental health issue every year, and this has of course been exacerbated by the pandemic.
In March last year we were all forced to work from home with virtually no warning, and had to quickly learn new ways of working and collaborating. Many of us believed this would just be for the short-term and yet, more than one year on, most companies are only just beginning to contemplate a return to office working. This is happening on a phased basis, with many measures in place providing physical protection, but what about measures to safeguard mental health?
For the majority of people work was previously completely separate from home life and somewhere they could enjoy the support and community of colleagues. Working from home has taken its toll on many personal relationships and, for some that live alone, intensified feelings of loneliness and isolation. Returning to the office, even part-time, will therefore be a great relief for many, while others will experience anxiety about re-entering society, using public transport again and rebuilding relationships with colleagues and clients.
Like a lot of businesses during the last 12 months, Optio has recognised the need for a more complete awareness of our employees’ wellbeing. As such, we now have one trained Mental Health First Aider (MHFA), and will soon be introducing others, to ensure everyone across the teams has someone they feel they can talk to.
I am proud to say I am Optio’s first MHFA, and the training given enables every MHFA to spot the early warning signs of common mental health crises, provide immediate help and enable individuals to obtain appropriate treatment as needed.
Although MHFAs are not yet a statutory requirement as physical first aiders are, this may soon change with discussions already taking place in parliament on this important issue. The pandemic has affected our collective mental health in many different ways. Re-establishing workplace communities promises to be tremendously positive for individuals and corporations alike. By introducing measures such as MHFAs, employers can help ensure the transition back to office life is a smooth one for employees and the business, while enjoying the many benefits this will bring long after that.