THE majority of workers have had symptoms of depression and anxiety since the pandemic struck, a Bournemouth-based mental health champion has warned.

Dan Willis is co-founder, along with Adam McNichol, of Well Good, which uses artificial intelligence to point people to signs of their own deteriorating mental health.

The new findings have led him to issue “four simple approaches” which businesses can use to increase workplace wellbeing.

Well Good’s chief psychology officer, Professor Kavita Vedhara of Nottingham University, led a study of 3,097 people which found stress, anxiety and depression were significantly higher than previously reported.

Sixty-four per cent reported symptoms of depression and 57 per cent had anxiety symptoms.

Prof Vedhara said: “The emotional toll early on in the pandemic appears to have been significant in the UK.

“This is perhaps not surprising as people were required to rapidly and unexpectedly respond to a range of challenges. What is crucial now is to examine if these very high levels of distress are persisting over time.”

The four approaches Mr Willis sets out are

  • Stay in touch – encouraging staff to keep in touch with friends, family and colleagues and practise self care.
  • Encourage your team to take breaks and holiday.
  • Community is at the heart of a great company – use the company culture to empower staff.
  • Be forthcoming and transparent. The report asks bosses to “set an example that it’s okay to talk about emotional wellbeing and encourage your managers to do the same”.

Mr Willis writes that the “lack of difference between work and private personal identities is having a big impact on wellbeing”.

“We are even busier it seems than before the pandemic and without this, often quality of sleep decreases, and without good sleep, our mental health suffers, not least affecting our concentration and performance at work,” he says.

“This continuous cycle of eat, sleep, work, repeat with no respite or seeming end can lead over the long term to effects such as sleep deprivation, overworking and a lack of a social identity which can drastically impact mental health, including you and your employees.”

He adds: “If companies are not mindful of mental health and consider the changes that the pandemic has brought on society then the effects of poor mental health, such as absenteeism, presenteeism and low employee retention, will become much worse, jeopardising business success.”

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