Returning to work after lockdown: Mental health awareness

In this article, I discuss the mental health effects that the lockdown has caused and the concerns your employees may be experiencing surrounding returning to work after lockdown. Employers need to be aware of the ‘people’ issues as well as the business issues of getting back to some kind of normality.

What is a mental health condition? 

Mental illness, also known as mental health disorders, refers to a range of mental health conditions – disorders that affect your mood, thinking and behaviour. 

Examples of mental illness include:

DepressionEating disorders
StressDissociation and Dissociative Disorder
Anxiety DisorderOCD
Bipolar DisorderPersonality Disorder
Schizoaffective DisorderAddictive behaviours, PTSD

What are the most common signs?

Signs and symptoms of mental illness can vary, depending on the disorder, circumstances and other factors. Mental illness symptoms can affect emotions, thoughts and behaviours.

Examples of signs and symptoms include:

Feeling sad or downInability to cope with daily problems or stress  
Confused thinking or reduced ability to concentrateTrouble understanding and relating to situations and people  
Excessive fears or worries, or extreme feelings of guiltProblems with alcohol or drug use
Extreme mood changes of highs and lowsMajor changes in eating habits  
Withdrawal from friends and activitiesSex drive changes
Significant tiredness, low energy or problems sleepingExcessive anger, hostility or violence
Detachment from reality (delusions),
paranoia and hallucinations
Suicidal thinking

Sometimes symptoms of a mental health disorder appear as physical problems, such as stomach pain, back pain, headaches, or other unexplained aches and pains.

Infographic: What Share of the World Population Is Already on COVID-19 Lockdown? | Statista You will find more infographics at Statista


Do you think the lockdown has had any effect on people’s mental wellbeing?

Over 2.6 billion people around the world have experienced some kind of lockdown or quarantine (1/3 of the population of the world!) This could result in a secondary epidemic of burnouts and stress-related absenteeism in the latter half of 2020.

People with no history of mental illness are developing serious psychological problems for the first time as a result of the lockdown due to growing stress over isolation, job insecurity, relationship breakdown and bereavement. Royal College of Psychiatrists has warned that services could be overwhelmed by ’a tsunami of mental illness’

What are the main mental health issues arising from the lockdown?

People in high-risk relationships are trapped with the person who may be abusing them. This could be men, women and children.  It may be a ‘new’ issue that has never occurred before and the abuse may be physical or mental.

Higher rates of anxiety and depression due to uncontrolled situation. This may be job or money related (e.g. unable to provide, insecurities, confinement, agoraphobia).

Drinking more alcohol, taking drugs. This will affect mood if out of control and may cause other issues within a confined space. Many people may be having a drink daily that never used to before and using it as a coping mechanism.

Insomnia. Lack of sleep and sleeping at different times of the day. Always feeling tired – feeling anxious just before bedtime; worrying about not being able to sleep.

Traumatic Distress  May show signs of symptoms without having any illness  
Palpitations  High temperature  
Panic Attacks  Coughs
Anger  Pains
Crying, sudden outbursts Muscle spasms
Lack of control over emotionsBelieving they have COVID-19

Stresses of returning to work after lockdown

Do I want to go back to an office environment with other people I have not seen for so many weeks? What PPE will you require them to wear and why?  

Face Masks / Face Shields / Disposable Gloves
How will I know that they have not had the virus or will not pass it onto me?
Tell the staff what has been put in place to keep them safe:

Risk Assessment / Signage / Restrictions / Hand Washing  
What steps have been put in place to ensure that we will be safe?Speak to them about their anxieties to reassure them that you have their wellbeing in mind.

Can I go back to work if I have someone who is shielding in my household?Do a return to work form with every member of staff so you can understand how they are feeling about coming back to work and how you can help them get back to some kind of normality.

Keep an eye out for signs and symptoms of mental health issues –even from the one’s you least expect to have any!
If I don’t go back to work, I may not be paid or could even lose my job!Have regular team meetings to communicate information. Check on workload. How are they managing? Look at results.  

PROVE that your employees’ well being is just as important as getting the business back up and running. If an employee does not have symptoms of COVID-19 or is not shielding due to a family member’s condition, they should be able to return to work.

Employees cannot be penalised if they cannot come back due to childcare issues – they could use the holidays they have accrued.

Risk of redundancy due to COVID-19 related financial issues – stick to your process!

Contact Jo on 01636 701386 if you have any questions or concerns regarding the issues raised in this article or complete our contact form to book a free one-hour consultation.