Jill Whittaker, Managing Director of HIT Training

Five ways to support #MentalHealth during challenging times 

Our daily lives, work and relationships have experienced huge upheaval due to the impact of COVID-19 in recent weeks. These unprecedented times are affecting us in different ways and bringing a range of challenges for us to overcome.

Social distancing and self-isolating are some of the biggest changes we’ve had to adapt to. Being away from close friends and family, as well as abandoning our daily routines and responsibilities can lead us to feel lonely, frustrated and a bit lost. This, combined with health worries, financial anxiety and uncertainty about the future, can result in underlying mental health issues coming to the fore.

During these unsettling times, protecting our mental health and those of our colleagues is of utmost importance. Jill Whittaker, Managing Director of HIT Training, offers her advice on managing difficult conversations, providing a support system for the workforce and helping to boost morale:

1. Offer a listening ear

While it’s more essential than ever to check-in with colleagues to see how they’re coping, it’s also important to remember that people may find it difficult to come forward and express their worries or ask for help. By offering a listening ear and regularly checking-in shows that you care and makes it clear that you’re willing to talk when the time is right for them.

2. Keep conversations going

It’s critical to maintain an open dialogue among team members and bring them together, even if they aren’t in the workplace. An effective way to do this is by holding virtual ‘tea breaks’ via video calls, where the team can enjoy a brew and catch-up, just like they would on a normal day at work.

3. Someone to turn to

Embracing mentor schemes is a great way to encourage team members to talk to one another and feel supported. Businesses should ensure mentors are briefed on the latest information and have undergone relevant training, so they feel equipped and empowered to support others.

4. Check ‘fine’ really means it

We all know that if someone says they are ‘fine’, it isn’t always the case. When we are going through challenging times it’s no surprise that people don’t want to burden others, which can lead to feelings of anxiety or stress to build up.

It might sound simple, but by checking if someone is really fine, or by saying “no, how are you really feeling?”, can encourage them to open up. If someone does express any feelings of worry or anxiety with you, it can help to relay what they’ve said back to them, to show you’re actively listening and make sure you’ve understood them correctly.

5. Remember we’re all different

We all react differently to difficult situations and it’s vital to remember that people will be impacted in different ways. While we are all uncertain about the long-term effects this outbreak will have on our lives, some of us will have increased anxiety about the health of loved ones, others will have decreased job security, financial worries, and some of us will have concerns about the effect on our children’s education.

In periods of uncertainty, the workforce will need to focus on family and other demands outside of work. Introducing or promoting flexible working hours will help to ease pressure on the workforce by helping staff manage other commitments – as well as maintaining business continuity.

There’s no question that the hospitality industry relies on its people. Our businesses thrive as a result of excellent teamwork, hard work and collaboration. During these challenging times, it’s never been more important to look after mental health and wellbeing and listen to each other’s concerns. By continuing to support each other, as an industry, we can remain resilient and weather this storm together.

Jill Whittaker, Managing Director of HIT Training

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