How lockdowns have had an impact on mental wellbeing awareness
Meritec look at how mental health of employees has been affected by the lockdowns of 2020 & 2021. The lockdowns of 2020 and 2021 affected almost everyone in the UK, and the impacts of those lockdowns are still being seen today.
For some, the lockdowns were a positive experience, with the slower pace of life giving them time to reflect and spend more time with their partners and children. For others, the experience was not so positive, and there’s no doubt that the measures put in place during the pandemic have had a huge impact on mental health.
How have the lockdowns negatively impacted mental health?
Everyone was affected differently by the enforced lockdowns. Some people were furloughed, others had to transition to working from home, and essential workers were still required to go to their usual place of work. Each group of people were faced with their own challenges.
The lockdowns meant those who were not going out to work had very little interaction with anyone outside their household. This made it an extremely lonely time for single parents and those living alone. Even with online meet-ups (work-related and social), people missed having face-to-face conversations.
Many people lost their support network – chatting to other parents in the playground, meeting up with friends for drinks or a meal, catching up with teammates at their local sports club. Losing this support network and not having any adult company for long periods resulted in high rates of loneliness, depression and even suicide.
Anxiety about going to work or returning to work
Many essential workers were worried about having to put themselves at risk every day, especially if they had vulnerable people in their households. With the media constantly publishing stories about hospital admissions and death rates, it’s not surprising some people were anxious about going out.
Even when the lockdowns started to ease, many people still had concerns and anxiety about returning to the office. Coronavirus hasn’t gone away, and people are still anxious about catching it.
Anxiety about not returning to work
As much as some people were anxious about returning to work, others were anxious about never being able to return. Many organisations struggled to survive the pandemic, resulting in people losing their jobs. But even some of those organisations that remained operational took the opportunity to downsize or move to remote working permanently.
While some employees are celebrating no longer having a daily commute, others feel anxious about what working from home permanently will mean for their careers. They feel anxious about not being able to bond with colleagues, make new friends, or learn from the people around them.
With the combination of loneliness, anxiety, illness, job losses, financial struggles and bereavements, it’s not surprising that many people suffered depression during and after lockdowns. The added heartache of not being able to visit loved ones in hospital or attend funerals made things more difficult for those who lost friends and relatives.
Lots of people were under extreme pressure during the lockdowns. Those who lost jobs or were between jobs when the lockdowns started were hit financially. Parents struggled to juggle work and home-schooling. People had to adapt to new ways of working. And demand on public sector organisations was significantly increased, meaning higher workloads for employees.
How have lockdowns impacted mental wellbeing awareness?
During the lockdowns, everyone was going through uncertainty and change. In some ways, the feeling of “we’re all in it together” made it easier for people to talk about their feelings and concerns. It became “ok not to be ok”, and people opened up about the impact the pandemic was having on their mental wellbeing.
Many companies encouraged employees to speak up if they were struggling and gave them advice on looking after their mental health. There was also a lot of focus on children’s mental health and the impact of lockdowns on their development.
Unfortunately, acknowledging a rise in mental illness during lockdown didn’t necessarily help combat the problem.
Not seeing people regularly made it harder to pick up on anything that might indicate a friend, relative or colleague was struggling. Many people were having to make adjustments in their own lives, which meant they weren’t always as receptive to other people’s needs. Those who were isolated or vulnerable were left feeling “trapped”.
Despite the well-meaning efforts of companies to create conversations about mental health, they weren’t always providing employees with practical support.
In fact, research shows that 76% of workers feel employers should be doing more, and 83 % of staff would like technology to support their mental wellbeing.
What can businesses and organisations do to improve awareness and support their teams?
The first step is to increase awareness around mental health. It is not enough to simply acknowledge that mental wellbeing is important – organisations need to do more to help their employees look after themselves and others.
Meritec’s Focus on Mental Wellbeing product is successfully delivering quality learning to hundreds of thousands of employees in the UK public and private sectors.
This short but valuable digital course enables staff to understand how they can improve their mental fitness, and sustain stamina, resilience and energy during challenging circumstances and over long periods.
Separate editions of the product are available to meet the specific needs of councils, housing associations, schools, academies, colleges and universities, and private sector organisations.
All Meritec courses are developed in conjunction with a subject matter expert. Our Focus on Mental Wellbeing course was created with David Beeney, founder of Breaking the Silence Ltd.
Our digital learning products are extremely cost-effective and can be hosted on our customisable digital learning platform or your existing LMS.
You can learn more about our digital learning products here or contact our team to find out how our courses can benefit your organisation.