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Protecting Mental Health Under Plan B Restrictions

Protecting Mental Health Under Plan B Restrictions
13 December 2021

As we familiarise ourselves with Plan B restrictions, what can we do to help employees protect their mental health?

The most recent Office for National Statistics data on COVID-19 and mental health shows that, unsurprising, the number of people reporting high levels of anxiety has sharply elevated during the pandemic.

As the access to what we might consider normal socialising waned, as did general life satisfaction and happiness. Over a third (37.4 per cent) of adults in Great Britain said that COVID-19 had affected their wellbeing between 3 April and 10 May 2020.

It is natural that the discovery of the omicron variant brings back anxious memories for many, as we have lived through varying levels of lockdown restrictions for almost two years.


Being Flexible


George Bonanno, who is a Professor of Clinical Psychology at Columbia University, spoke to The New Statesman about what his work with trauma victims can teach us about living through these uncertain times.

One of his takeaways is that the key to resilience is being flexible, that is, flexible enough to adjust your coping mechanisms. George is keen to emphasise that people who are truly resilient understand that processing hard emotions doesn’t always require the same response.

He wrote: “The pandemic has presented myriad challenges along the way. It’s been two years of different kinds of challenges. And each time, we have to figure out: what’s happening? What do I need to do to get through this? And that’s why it’s kind of exhausting – but that’s what gets us through.”


Managing Remote Working


Recent Plan B rules mean that office workers should be encouraged to work from home where possible. Whilst most of us have become used to some sort of hybrid working over the last two years, it can be challenging to manage your team’s wellbeing when not being seeing them every day.

Emma Mamo, Head of Workplace Wellbeing at Mind, the mental health charity, advises asking your remote team to complete a Wellness Action Plan, which can be looked at and kept up to date during 1-2-1 sessions. Such tools can help identify practical steps in place to ensure you are supported when you aren't feeling great.

If an employee is having to not only work from home, but shield due to a medical condition, there is also guidance available to help them manage their time at home. The NHS has produced a short guide to mental wellbeing while staying at home.


Avoiding Speculation


One way in which employers can help to prevent pandemic-related stress is by encouraging their employees to take a break from viewing the extensive news coverage we’ve all become accustomed to.

Whilst it’s important to have access to quality information, as this can help empower individuals to feel more informed and in control, if constant news causes you stress, it’s important to limit your intake.

Employers should also make sure they are only communicating information from reputable sources, such as or from the NHS.


“Coping Ugly”


With reference to George Bonanno’s advice in The New Statesman, coping mechanisms don’t always have to be wholesome as exercise, mindfulness and healthy food.

He writes: “It doesn’t have to be pretty what you do. It doesn’t have to be considered by some expert to be the right thing to do. It just has to work.”

Self-care is a subjective thing, and you can help employees work out which activities will be most useful in restoring a mental balance.


Spotting the Signs of Mental Health Illnesses


It’s important to distinguish between heightened anxiety and stress due to the pandemic and an ongoing mental health problem. Not everyone will show obvious signs of a mental health problem and it can be harder to spot these signs if employees are working from home. ACAS says it’s important to regularly ask your staff how they're doing and create an environment where they feel able to be open and honest about how they’re feeling.

Here are some of the most common warning signs of a mental health illness:


  • Appearing tired, anxious or withdrawn
  • Increase in sickness absence or being late to work
  • Changes in the standard of their work or focus on tasks
  • Being less interested in tasks they previously enjoyed
  • Changes in usual behaviour, mood or how the person behaves with the people they work with


For more about supporting employees with a mental illness, click here.

Picture: a photograph of a person sitting at a desk, resting their head on their hand. The person is looking at some papers on their desk, and a laptop computer can be seen.

Article written by Ella Tansley | Published 13 December 2021


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