Security sector addresses wellbeing: Stop Look and Listen
The widespread disruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic has taken a toll on the mental health of many security professionals over the past year. In response, organisations must address employee wellbeing – corporate level initiatives can make a real difference.
The last year has been incredibly challenging for many people, including those who have never previously experienced poor mental health. The deep emotional impact of the coronavirus pandemic and the lockdowns required to reduce transmission rates have created financial worries, threatened job security and, of course, made people concerned for their physical health. This has led to increased levels of anxiety, depression, distress, boredom and loneliness.
Facts and figures
The Mental Health Foundation’s Mental Health in the Pandemic study found that while anxiety about the pandemic has fallen among UK adults – from 62 per cent of those surveyed in March 2020 to 42 per cent in February 2021 – across the same period fewer adults felt they were coping well. In April 2020, 73 per cent said they were coping well but in February 2021 this figure fell to 64 per cent.
It’s a complex picture and it also appears that loneliness has become much more common, increasing from 10 per cent of those surveyed in March 2020 to 26 per cent in February 2021. In fact, feelings of loneliness have not returned to their pre-lockdown levels at any point over the last year, even when some restrictions were lifted during the summer.
Make the connection
One of the most significant changes across society over the last decade has been the attitude towards mental health. The workplace often provides a valuable form of social interaction and it is now widely acknowledged that overall wellbeing is enhanced by good corporate practices and policies. Workplace wellbeing should be far more than simply a tick in the corporate social responsibility box though, as organisations that invest in this area also benefit from improved productivity, less absence through illness and highly motivated personnel.
Although the pandemic has brought this into sharp focus, back in 2017 the Thriving at Work report made 40 recommendations for businesses, regulators, the government and the public sector, after it found one worker in six suffers from a mental illness. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) also found that 17.5 million working days are lost each year, meaning that mental health problems cost £1,300 for every employee in the UK economy.
On the front foot
It is incumbent upon everyone to be vigilant when it comes to mental health and the welfare of their colleagues. Companies with established workplace mental health programmes already in place have been much better prepared in identifying and implementing ways to support employees – both active and furloughed – during the pandemic.
Based on its previous experience in creating workplace wellbeing initiatives, Wilson James was in a good position to deal with the unique challenges the situation presented. For example, its award winning Keeping Well programme comprises a series of video and print resources covering subjects such as working from home, keeping active and healthy, eating well, avoiding misinformation, and managing stress and anxiety. This was rolled out in addition to a programme of resilience training aimed at managers across the business
Although these initiatives perform a valuable role, sometimes people simply need to talk to another human being, anonymously and confidentially, to offload their concerns and receive practical guidance. Although much progress has been made, the stigma surrounding poor mental health remains and some individuals are often reluctant to make use of ‘overt’ wellbeing initiatives.
This is a potentially dangerous situation that could lead to people suffering in silence. So, inspired by Shout – the free test based service that connects people with trained volunteers – Wilson James created Listening EARs. As part of the project, volunteers from the company are trained to act in support roles for colleagues struggling with their mental health.
Developed in partnership with Mind and The Wellbeing Project, which is conducting volunteer training, it enables someone who is feeling anxious, worried and alone to use their mobile phone to text a dedicated number. A volunteer then calls them back to listen, understand, support and signpost them. No names are exchanged and the only information collected is a General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) compliant summary of the nature of the call. This information is used to ascertain what types of issues are particularly affecting Wilson James’ staff and the company can then shape its wellbeing initiatives to make them more effective.
For many of us, the next few months will remain difficult and uncertain. Losing regular interaction with people means less emotional support, so organisations must protect employees, as far as is feasibly possible. A corporate reassessment of how mental health and wellbeing is dealt with is the first step on this journey, and it is important to personalise initiatives and recognise different individual requirements to make them truly effective.
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