Employers should prepare for a surge in mental health problems due to the COVID-19 lockdown, according to the Building Engineering Services Association (BESA)
With lockdown restrictions only in their early stages, BESA is concerned long periods of enforced physical isolation could lead to serious mental health problems.
A recent survey by BESA and the ECA found that nine out of 10 small business owners were suffering from stress and other serious mental health conditions.
41% of respondents to a poll of carried out by the Association said their mental health was worse than normal as a result of the COVID-19 restrictions, including 5% who said it was much worse.
BESA urged employers to maintain regular contact with both working and furloughed staff amidst concern that the latter would simply be left to their own devices for the duration of the crisis.
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Emily Pearson, managing director of the mental health in the workplace organisation Our Minds Work, said: “We need to treat mental health with the same seriousness as physical health.”
She told the Association that it was important for people working from home, or in more isolation than usual, to remain in regular contact with work colleagues and to closely monitor changes to their mental well-being.
However, she added that there would be times when only the physical intervention of a colleague, friend or family member would be needed to deal with the most serious problems.
Emily added: “We must not forget that this condition can kill. Action needs to be taken during the lockdown if someone is having significant problems – just as you would if they had broken their leg.
“We are all experiencing greater anxiety and we know that there was a steep increase in people reporting mental health worries on the day the Prime Minister announced the lockdown.”
“Mental health was already a serious problem in our sector before the current COVID-19 crisis.”
BESA’s chief executive, David Frise, said: “The industry has made major progress on the physical safety of its workforce, but continues to struggle with mental health issues, which are just as important.
“Employers must be mindful of the impact uncertainty and isolation can have on their staff who will also be worrying about their job security. We are also urging banks to be mindful of the particular pressure on small business owners applying for financial support through the government’s emergency schemes.”
Ms Pearson said companies could access resources via her website (www.ourmindswork.com) to help them put strategies in place.