POSTED: June 15 2020
advo hr feature: Mental health and returning to the workplace during Covid-19

advo hr feature: Mental health and returning to the workplace during Covid-19

The government has  encouraged employees to return to the work place. advo hr looks at how employers can practically approach this, with an emphasis on putting employee health and well-being at the centre of any return to work.

All advo hr clients with sites or offices in England have been sent our ‘returning to the workplace guidance’. As Mental Health Awareness Week fell between 18-22 May, where we look at how employers can manage mental health during Covid-19 and particularly when they are considering returning employees to the workplace.

It is important to consider employees may be affected differently during the pandemic regarding mental health. For example:

  • Some employees may have an existing mental health condition which has flared up as result of the current situation.
  • Some employees may have a pre-existing mental health condition but they have been able to manage it during the pandemic.
  • Some employees may have never had a pre-existing mental health condition but as a result of Covid-19 it has triggered mental health issues
  • Some employees may not have suffered from a mental health condition and have good mental health.

During the pandemic employees may face a number of issues. It is important to be sensitive and compassionate regarding any concerns they may have about returning to the workplace. Employers will need to consider:

  • Staff who are advised to shield (clinically extremely vulnerable) or to self-isolate.
  • Staff who live with someone who is shielding (clinically extremely vulnerable) or self-isolating.
  • Staff who are classed as vulnerable.
  • Staff who have suffered a bereavement.
  • Staff who rely on public transport to get to work.
  • Staff who have children that are not in the categories that return to education on 1st June 2020 and therefore continue to have caring responsibilities.
  • Staff with other caring responsibilities.
  • Staff who have existing mental health conditions or who have experienced this as a result of the current situation.
  • Staff with health conditions, disabilities.

Employers should keep in mind that those who have had reasonable adjustments put in place before Covid-19 may need different reasonable adjustments to enable them to return to the workplace.

During the pandemic the employer should produce a strategy for mental health trying to be open and honest, addressing any stigma attached to mental health, creating a culture where employees are encouraged to engage and talk to colleagues and managers and where managers get to know their staff, have a healthy work/life balance and promote positive mental health.

Managers should be trained to spot signs that may indicate an employee is struggling, i.e. behavioural changes or an increase in absence/attendance levels, be willing to listen, have a discussion and come to an agreement with an employee where there may a problem or concern. They should have knowledge of any support the Company can offer the employee to mitigate any risk and address any concern, including any resources accessible to the employee that could help support them. They should understand how to handle absence.

There are a number of resources employers could offer during this time to help support employees’ mental health, these include:

  • Health and wellbeing champions
  • Employee Assistance Programmes
  • Occupational health Services

Good mental health support websites include:

When the time comes that the employer is able to safely return employees to the workplace, subject to the Government guidance, employers should consult with employees via a return to work meeting and do the following:

  1. Be clear on the Health and Safety measures the Company have put in place to keep everyone safe.
  2. Address any concerns employees may have about returning to the workplace.
  3. Provide employees with an update on any changes that have taken place since they have been absent.
  4. Be clear about what their first day will look like so they know what to expect.
  5. Keep the situation under review and be prepared to adapt to changes in circumstances.


Our Health & Safety Partner, Keystone Safety Solutions Ltd Services offering during Covid-19

We have a partnership arrangement in place with Keystone Safety Solutions Ltd who are a health and safety specialists, providing clients needing support in this area, access to address safety in the workplace. a health and safety specialists, providing clients needing support in this area, access to address safety in the workplace.

Keystone Safety Solutions are offering the following services to support employers in the pandemic:

If you would like to know more about how advo hr can support your employees in returning to the office, or need help on any other HR issue or employee benefit advice, such as with implementing an Employee Assistance Programme, then contact the advo team on