Psychological wellbeing is a big topic right now with a lot of content being generated about the need for positive cultures, leadership, and meeting the needs for job satisfaction.
What doesn’t seem to be getting into the conversation is the damage that was done to psychological wellbeing by the covid pandemic to those returning to the workplace.
The impact of the covid pandemic on many has been highly stressful to the point that it has had an extreme effect on the mental health of many and not only in healthcare. The descriptions from so many studies describing ongoing stressors and anxiety and the decline in mental health are harrowing, particularly given that some studies were done only half-way through the pandemic and the pressure stayed on for another year at least. Depression, anxiety and PTSD are recorded in many studies with one review describing people “living within a milieu of stress, anxiety, and fear.”
One non-healthcare study from the UK reported several direct effects on mental health resulting from grief and bereavement or from the loss of social interactions and relationships due to social distancing and restrictions. Another non-healthcare study from the United States found that 64% had experienced moderate to high exposure to adverse experiences during the pandemic and were more likely to report depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress. Other recent studies of some general populations are showing very high levels of poor wellbeing, and some are showing around 30% suffering from depression. These scores are higher, on average in the youngest age groups but still very significant in all the others.
I have written before that those organisations too pressured to get back to work, too focused on spreadsheets rather than their people will be much slower to get back to full performance, losing talented people along the way. What is not clear yet is the long-term impact and what interventions may be necessary for full recovery. Certainly, there are some potential start points from the interventions for psychological wellbeing and PTSD that have been used in the past.
Compared to this problem, the impact of changing to more hybrid work may be inconsequential.
Taking time and using some resources to ensure your people are ok will also help them understand they can trust you and your organisation. Richard Branson has said look after your people and your people will look after your customers. Take care of your people folks its good for business but more importantly its the right thing to do.
Aidan Higgins BE MBA MSc (Psych) is the founder of ADEO Consulting Ltd and a Leadership, Emotional Intelligence and Teamwork specialist and Coach, who has worked with leaders and teams at all levels of the private and public sectors. He has over 30 years experience working in various capacities with individuals, teams and organisations of all sizes. He is the author of LeadFromYou – We need aware, authentic and emotionally intelligent leaders. – now available in Paperback and Kindle on Amazon and in audiobook form via Audible and iTunes.