The events of 2020 have highlighted the importance of mental health more than ever before. As a result of social distancing, lockdowns and huge changes to work and personal lives due to the Covid-19 pandemic, mental health for many has definitely been affected.
As a solution to not being able to meet in person, schools, universities and work places have taken to platforms like Zoom and Microsoft Teams in order to stay in touch and conduct business as usual where possible. Although these solutions are fantastic and are allowing many businesses to continue as usual and many children to keep up with their school work, the unfortunately. do not enable us to tell how that person behind the screen is actually doing.
For World Mental Health Day this year, Bdaily spoke candidly to some business leaders about their own experiences and struggles during the pandemic, and shared the lessons they have learned about mental health and wellbeing during this unprecedented time.
Below are a couple of business leaders discussing their experiences of working and mental health throughout the pandemic.
Gary Butterfield, co-founder and executive director at HR, health and wellbeing firm Everyday Juice Limited
“If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that connections are our greatest asset, and that compassion and understanding should be at the heart of the employee proposition.
“Isolation and loneliness have been a growing issue for a long time now, but it was suddenly thrust into the spotlight when the world went into lockdown. No longer could we speak to friends, family, colleagues, and neighbours without a glass window or electronic screen between us. It therefore comes as no surprise that we are seeing sharp declines in mental health as a result.
“The need for social interaction is embedded deep within our DNA, and although for many of us electronic devices have offered some much-needed contact, it doesn’t in any way compare to face-to-face communication. We all need that oxytocin hit!
“The pandemic has affected each and every one of us in different ways, and no one size fits all approach will suffice. However, by creating a culture of compassion and understanding that we’re all experiencing things in different ways it will ensure that we all come back together stronger than when we left.
“The most in-tune employers have realised this, and quickly put in place provisions to foster greater connections through shared experiences.
“Whether it be a yoga class, seminar or workshop, online pub quiz, or in our case a hotly contested team step challenge using no-code tools, organisations are gauging what kind of services and support add value to the employee experience and creating a greater sense of connectedness.
“Once this is all old news and normal life resumes, in whatever way that looks like, by building stronger connections now we will benefit from greater fulfilment, happiness, wellbeing, and engagement with our workplaces.”
Rebecca Newenham, founder and director of virtual agency Get Ahead VA
“2020 has certainly been a huge learning curve, both professionally and personally. On the one hand, my team are all home-based so we were physically well set up to manage lockdown.
“However, I felt a big responsibility to support my team mentally. Many of my virtual assistants have had to manage homeschooling alongside client work. Financial concerns were also a big issue, with family changes and a reduction in client demand.
“I learnt just how important good self-discipline is. Having juggled a family and running a business for 10 years, I’ve always had to be aware of this. But with three teenage daughters and a husband at home, as well as a team to support, I had to be even more disciplined.
“I chose to get up early in the mornings to get work done, allowing me time to spend with my girls during the day. Those in my team with younger children used nap times and evenings to get on top of things.
“We organised Zoom meetings around our families so that we could give both our full attention. This allowed us to achieve a better work/life balance and ensure that everything got done. Every minute really does count and can be used wisely.
“I also became even more aware that we are all human. During lockdown, many of my team were suddenly having to manage everything under one roof. Working at home, whilst sharing the space with partners, spouses, children, pets, housemates, parents.
“We all embraced dogs barking or children’s interruptions in our Monday morning team catch-ups and accepted the reality that we all have lives outside of work. We became more sympathetic when others didn’t present the corporate image we used to expect. I think we’ve all become more relaxed about being who we really are.”
As a society, we have done extremely well to pull together and get through the difficult times that we have faced this year, however much of it has come at a cost of our mental health. We must ensure going forward that we take care of our own and others’ mental health and look forward to brighter times ahead.
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