Mental health and the workplace – tackling root causes

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Anna Gowdridge the Human At Work Director for Virgin Unite posing on a balcony
by Anna Gowdridge
7 October 2020
On World Mental Health Day our team has been reflecting on the ways in which coronavirus has created an uncertain and volatile world in a way we have never seen before.

For many work and the ability to earn a living has disappeared or become uncertain. Whilst others are balancing new realities and responsibilities whilst also dealing with health and well-being anxieties. 

Change happened overnight but the impacts will be long lasting. There is still little sign of normality returning, and no clear light at the end of the tunnel. This is likely to have had an effect on all of our mental and emotional well-being to some extent. 

In the face of such unprecedented level of disruption, it is vital to support employee mental health – both through the immediate shock resulting from measures to contain the virus, and the long-tail impacts on mental health likely to last months and years.

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Whilst before coronavirus there was a slow but growing recognition that work had an impact on mental health and employers had a role to play, for many employers this has now become one of their highest strategic priorities.  

In this 100% Human at Work discussion paper we wanted to take a look at some of the root causes of mental health issues in the workplace, both things stemming from the coronavirus crisis and more general factors. Our aim is to encourage organisations to support the short and longer term mental health needs of employees, through tackling some of the root causes. 

We believe we also need systems-level solutions, and in this paper we aim to provoke a conversation around possible interventions by governments to increase job security, reduce financial worry and offer an experience of work that is better for mental health. We don’t think we know the answers but are keen to kick off the conversation.

We hope this paper sparks thoughts and discussion in your organisation and we’d love to hear about anything you are doing in this space.