POSTED: April 15 2020
Staff mental health: biggest challenge

Staff mental health: biggest challenge

Two-thirds of employers say supporting staff mental health and well-being is one of their main challenges during coronavirus crisis.

Managing people’s fear and anxiety and supporting their mental health during the coronavirus crisis is the most common challenge for employers says new, joint research from the CIPD and People Management magazine, looking at how employers are responding to the Covid-19 pandemic.

More employers (67%) said that supporting people’s mental health was a key challenge than deciding on the best way to respond to the crisis as a business (49%), despite the uncertainty many employers now find themselves in.

The survey also found that the most common challenge identified by employers with staff working remotely is ensuring they are staying well both physically and mentally (70%).

This shows that employers recognise it’s an exceptionally worrying time for many of their staff, who will have a range of concerns. This could include fear about themselves or their loved ones contracting the virus, losing their job or having to reduce their hours, and feeling isolated because of the lockdown measures.

The CIPD is encouraging employers to have constant communication with their workforce and take early action to offer support such as counselling and ensure managers are trained and confident to support employees’ continued well-being, both those in the workplace and those working from home.

Rachel Suff, well-being adviser at the CIPD said: “On one hand, these finding are welcome as it shows that the vast majority of employers do care about their staff and recognise they have a responsibility to look out for them. On the other, it does bring home the heavy toll that this crisis is putting people under, and some employers and line mangers may well be feeling out of their depth in how to best support them.

“There are simple steps employers can take at this time to support their staff’s mental well-being, such as reminding managers about the importance of communicating regularly with their teams, asking how they’re doing, and signposting to advice on good self-care like healthy diet, sleep and relaxation habits.”

GRiD, the organisation that represents the insurance protection industry echoes the CIPD’s survey’s concerns and believes that ‘benefits that provide financial and emotional support to employees when the worst happens are coming into their own right now.’

Some employee benefits are designed to provide financial and emotional support for staff who are absent through ill-health, or to dependants of employees that die, such as group risk benefits (employer-sponsored life assurance, income protection and critical illness). Indeed, nearly 2.5 million employees in the UK are covered by schemes that will provide financial support if they’re unable to work through illness, and over 9.5 million employees are covered by schemes that will pay out a lump sum to their dependants if they die while employed.

Katharine Moxham, spokesperson for GRiD, the group risk industry body added, “Emotional and financial support is needed on an unprecedented scale right now, and it will be group risk benefits that employers will look to to provide it. Each employer’s arrangements will be specific to them, so it’s important they understand what’s covered within their own [insurance health protection] schemes, to make sure they’re getting all the support available for those dealing with the effects of Covid-19. If they haven’t already engaged with their advisers, now is the time.’


Further findings from the CIPD and People Management magazine survey reveal:

Some of the other most common challenges employers have around dealing with the coronavirus outbreak are:

  • Staff not being able to work from home (47%)
  • Lack of clear information from the government (36%)
  • Staff being unable to work because of school closures (34%)

Some of the other most common challenges employers have with home working are:

  • Staff balancing work and parenting commitments (65%)
  • Keeping staff engaged and motivated (64%)
  • Ensuring staff are communicating effectively with each other (57%)

Will you still be hiring over the next few months?

  • 56% said that hiring has been frozen
  • 25% said their hiring will be less than normal
  • 14% said hiring would continue as normal
  • 4% said they would be hiring more staff to respond to the coronavirus

Have you onboarded new starters remotely since social distancing was rolled out?

  • 40% said no, no one was due to start in this date
  • 38% said yes
  • 22% have delayed the start date for new starters

How are you responding to school and nursery closures? (top 5 responses only)

  • Parents are making up their full contracted hours at home but at different times to normal (52%)
  • Employers are asking parents to continue working their normal hours from home (41%)
  • Parents are using their annual leave entitlement to look after their children (27%)
  • Staff have had to take unpaid leave (24%)
  • Parents are working reduced hours but still at full pay (19%)

Would you consider allowing more staff to work from home or unconventional hours if altered working arrangements prove a success?

  • 41% said yes
  • 9% said no
  • 12% said don’t know



The CIPD, the professional body for HR and people development, and People Management surveyed 301 HR professionals in late March to identify the key challenges employers are facing during this unprecedented time, and the specific challenges with mass home working.



You can read the CIPD’s press release in full here.