WORKPLACE expert Acas has published new guidance to help staff manage mental health at work during coronavirus.

A new Acas-commissioned YouGov survey conducted during Coronavirus has found that nearly two out of five employees working from home felt stressed, anxious or experienced mental health difficulties due to their working situation.

The poll also found that:

• One in two people working from home felt isolated; and

• Seven out of ten felt that they were missing social interactions with others at work.

Acas Chief Executive, Susan Clews, said: “Many employees are working from home for the first time during this pandemic and it is clear from our poll that it is a very stressful or anxious experience for many people.

“The coronavirus lockdown has created lots of extra challenges such as a lack of social contact with work colleagues, feeling alone, trapped or struggling with childcare responsibilities. There’s also a real anxiety around the impact of the virus itself, job security concerns whilst on furlough and genuine worries around whether it is safe to physically return back to their workplace.

“Our new coronavirus mental health advice covers all of these different workplace situations and offers practical advice on how workers, managers and bosses can support their colleagues during this difficult time.”

During the coronavirus pandemic, many people may be working from home, leaving home to go to work or on temporary leave (‘furloughed’).

Acas North West Director, Terry Duffy, added: “All over the North West, we are adapting to new ways of working during the Coronavirus pandemic and this research shows that it is a difficult time for many people.

“People are coping with a lack of contact with colleagues, family and friends, juggling childcare responsibilities with other obligations, anxiety about job security and thinking about returning to work.

“The new Coronavirus mental health advice from Acas offers practical advice on how employees and employers can work through this difficult time.”

Acas’ new advice is clear that in any of these situations, we all need to look after our mental wellbeing and offers some practical steps to take:

• stay in contact with people – talk to colleagues or friends about how you’re feeling

• have a routine - so you plan in advance what you’ll be doing each day

• keep active and exercise

• make time for activities you enjoy

People working from home may feel isolated. Acas’ top suggestions on how to help include:

• Talking to your manager about hours and when to take breaks

• Discussing what kind of contact you’d like, possibly more video or phone calls

• Mix up work so that it involves calls with other staff

• Plan coffee breaks into your routine with other staff to keep in touch

There has been some initial easing of lockdown measures which has prompted some staff anxiety around safety and a physical return to work. Employers have a ‘duty of care’ towards their staff. This means they must do all they reasonably can to support employees’ health, safety and wellbeing. This includes:

• making sure the working environment is safe

• protecting staff from discrimination

• carrying out risk assessments

Acas’ full advice includes practical steps for employees, managers and employers to help everyone’s mental health during this difficult time. Please see: www.acas.org.uk/coronavirus-mental-health.