Kindness, the theme of this Mental Health Awareness Week

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Kindness, the theme of this Mental Health Awareness Week is more important than ever

Today (18/05/20) is the start of Mental Health Awareness Week, which this year has the theme of kindness, despite being overshadowed by COVID-19, just under three-quarters of employees believe one lesson we should learn from this pandemic is to be kinder as a society.

According to research from the Mental Health Foundation, a charity for everyone’s mental health, 72 per cent of workers believe that we should become kinder as a society following COVID-19.

Under two-thirds (63 per cent) believe that when others are kind to them, it has a positive impact on their mental health. As well as the same number of workers saying that when they are kind to others it has a positive impact on their mental health.

The charity is advising all government departments, to apply a measurable, values-based kindness test to current and new policies. Which will ideally make sure all policies are “informed by kindness, equality, dignity and respect.”

Simon Blake, chief executive of Mental First Aid (MHFA) England said:

Covid-19 has disrupted our lives but also shown our potential for huge acts of kindness, both as individuals and, critically, at an organisational level. Businesses have donated essentials to key workers, workplaces have fundraised for struggling charities, and companies have quickly adapted to create vital products for our NHS.

Adjusting to a new normal will take time, focus and energy. Every employer must recognise the importance of a robust mental health and wellbeing strategy, which places kindness at its heart. Employers have a duty of care to support the many people continuing to work from home, and to help those transitioning back to physical workplaces and protect psychological safety as they do. For the sake of every individual’s wellbeing and for the continued survival and fight back of businesses and the economy we must ensure mental health is at the top of the Boardroom agenda.

Personio, an HR software provider believes as the vast majority of the UK is now remote working, “regular, small acts of kindness are more important than ever.”

Ben Kiziltug, country manager UK and lead international at Personio said:

Working from home, especially in the current circumstances, can be an isolating experience and a strain on employee well-being. Regular, small acts of kindness are more important than ever to show employees that they are supported and valued, whether it’s an encouraging email from a colleague or manager, or introducing a flexible policy for those caring for others during this time, these can improve motivation and have a positive impact on productivity.

HR professionals have a valuable role to play in facilitating this and can act as a useful go-between for the business and any staff who are struggling, finding solutions that work for the employee and the business. They can also support leaders as they communicate with the team and keep colleagues connected.

The research was undertaken by QBE, the business insurance specialist has shown that younger workers (18-34-year-olds) are far more likely to experience burnout and see a decrease in their mental wellbeing during this lockdown period, as they are finding it hard to maintain a work-life balance whilst remote working. The insurance business found that the average younger worker’s week is three hours longer than if they were working in the office. Just under a fifth (17 per cent) said they were working 10 hours or more extra every week.

Nearly half (42 per cent) of younger employees are worried that the current COVID-19 economic consequences could have a negative impact on their career.

Pinar Karabulut, psychologist and rehabilitation consultant at QBE said:

While it is encouraging to see that the majority of people (63 per cent) say they are enjoying working from home, our research did identify some worrying trends. Some people may feel obligated to answer emails outside work hours and work longer hours, but this does risk burnout and it’s important to switch off at the end of the day to avoid a negative impact on mental health.

In order to collate these results, the Mental Health Foundation spoke to 4,256 UK employees. QBE’s research was carried out by Opinium, a strategic insight agency which surveyed 2,002 UK employees.

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