VIDEO: How employers can enable positive mental health in young staff

(Open in YouTube for chaptered version of the video)

Pre Covid-19, young people were shown to be the most susceptible to having poor mental health at work. Research by the Institute for Fiscal Studies has shown how the virus has increased these inequalities in mental health.

Mental health in the UK has deteriorated as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic: by 8.1% on average (using scores from the  twelve-item General Health Questionnaire (GHQ-12)) but by much more for young adults and for women. Young women have seen the largest deterioration in mental health as result of Covid-19.

GMCVO-led youth employment programme, GM’s Hidden Talent, brought together mental health charities and employers to discuss the pandemic’s impact on young people's mental health, and to share practices that enable positive mental health in young staff - particularly those working remotely. 

The video also features some fantastic insight from Meg, who gives a young person’s perspective on starting a new job during the Covid-19 lockdown.  

10 key takeaways for employers:

  1. Normalise conversations about mental health from the get-go (i.e. talk about the support you offer in your recruitment materials and at interview stage). Highlight the pastoral support available.
  2. Get to know a young person before they officially start. Informal conversations can give you a read on young people's mood. Ask what they are looking forward to and what apprehensions they have. When doing this, talk empathically about your own experiences of starting new jobs. Send out mapped out induction timetables a week or two before start dates.
  3. Share staff wellbeing resources as thematically aggregated one-pager guides. Potential topics include, 'Home life wellbeing', 'Support resources', 'Coping with feelings of overwhelm.'
  4. Set tasks with clear parameters and instructions for new starters. Don't assume young staff have the implicit knowledge required to complete tasks. Say that it's okay not to know something- nobody is expecting an expert. Remember that a young person may be doing certain jobs for the very first time. They may say they can do something to try and prove themselves  - make sure they know they can ask for help. Agree on how long to spend on a job and check-in regularly to assess progress. 
  5. Have explicit conversations about individual's homeworking situations and any concerns around return to the workplace. 
  6. Train all staff - not just frontline staff. A top-down, bottom-up approach leads to you living your values.
  7. Role model positive mental health for remote workers: tell young staff what you are doing to look after yourself e.g. stepping away from screen, getting outside at lunch time.
  8. Pay attention to staff. It is harder to read individual's mood when communicating remotely, but watch for changes in behaviour - cameras regularly being turned off during calls (where they weren't previously), someone consistently sending emails out of hours, new signs of disinterestedness or frustration. Changed tone of voice, silences on shared calls etc. can be tell-tale signs but...
  9. ...These may be innocuous changes e.g. 'I've been eating lunch when the shared calls have happened and didn't want to be eating a sandwich with a live audience!', plus, everyone can have a bad day. Remember, there is no one-size-fits-all roadmap to positive mental health: different things work for different people. Some people will get the support they need outside of work. Others will have their own tried and tested mental wellbeing strategies - don't automatically be alarmed if someone does not attend the optional Friday quiz / social on Zoom.
  10. Ask yourself, "What style of leadership to I want to embrace?"

Key resource links:

  • Tameside, Oldham and Glossop Mind are running Connect 5 training throughout July. Connect 5 is a mental health promotion training programme for frontline non-mental health staff. It empowers staff with the skills to have conversations about mental health and to intervene effectively.
  • Mental Health at Work have individual positive mental health strategies for a range of different sectors.
  • MIND have a guidance on how staff can create Wellness Action Plans (WAPs) to support and promote their mental health and wellbeing at work. identify what keeps us well at work, what causes us to become unwell, and how to address a mental health problem at work should you be experiencing one
  • Acas, the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service, have a page for all things mental health at work - employers' legal responsibilities, links to training and how to create a supportive environment.
  • Young Minds have a wealth of advice for young people about self-care in the context of Covid-19.


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