British Summer Time ends at 2am on Sunday 25 October 2020. For many this could be a depressing time of dark evenings and loneliness, particularly under social restrictions and with the isolation and pressure of working from home. Towergate Health & Protection is launching a winter survival checklist for SMEs to support employees through this time and to improve their health and wellbeing.
At the moment, many people are putting off important medical screening and routine health appointments. Health practitioners may see patients in a different way under Covid restrictions, but they are still there and available. Employers need to encourage employees to make the most of any screening and healthcare provided.
There are countless things we can do to improve our mental health and with so many of us working from home, getting outside, learning new skills and connecting with others are more important than ever. Keeping in routine, getting dressed every day, taking a lunch break – all these little things help. Employers can play their part in ensuring that staff maintain routine and proactively support a work/life balance.
Taking regular exercise not only raises self-esteem but also releases chemicals in the brain which improve mood. With many gyms operating on a restricted basis, employers can implement small challenges to increase daily step counts, arrange inter-departmental challenges, re-ignite a passion for cycling, walking and running, etc. Even a daily routine of stretches and light exercise can help those who might be spending long hours working on a laptop at their kitchen or dining table.
Both quality and quantity of sleep are important for wellbeing. Removing distractions from the bedroom can help, as well as limiting screen-time before bed. Dividing work time from home time, even if the division is currently only mental, will help to minimise the issues of an over-active brain. Now is a good time to encourage employees to make use of personalised apps that can help them deal with stress and anxiety, to switch off and relax.
A healthy diet, with a good mix of fruit and vegetables will help to maintain good mental and physical wellbeing. Receiving enough Vitamin D is harder in the darker winter months and the NHS recommends adults consider taking a daily 10mg supplement. Making this even more pertinent, there is evidence to suggest that Vitamin D deficiency may be linked to increased risk of Covid-19 infection, so it’s especially relevant to ensure a diet is healthy during the winter months.
Financial security, or lack of it, can have an enormous impact on mental wellbeing. Employers can help by proactively providing staff with information about how to manage their financial situation. This can include directing employees to free support services such as the Citizens Advice Bureau and debt charity StepChange, and ensuring any benefits the company offers which support finances, such as financial protection, cashplans, etc are clearly communicated, as these can all help to alleviate worries about the future.
Talk it through, seek help
Perhaps one of the most important steps in ensuring good wellbeing is to talk about any issues and, if necessary, seek help. Employers are well placed to provide tangible help in terms of offering access to mental health assistance and signposting to relevant professional advice. If employers don’t already provide an employee assistance programme now is the ideal time to put one in place, these are an affordable and accessible way to support employees with many of these steps.
Brett Hill, distribution director at Towergate Health & Protection says, ‘It is more important than ever for employers to engage with their employees and to be aware of the pressures upon them. With social distancing and many not physically working with their colleagues, we are all rather more removed from each other, and people can take a dip without others noticing. Communication is key and we encourage employers to make regular contact with employees – by phone not just email – to make sure their workforce knows their company cares, and is aware of any support available.’