2020 has been quite a year. Back in February, few of us could have imagined that we would be spending much of the year grounded – stranded even – at home. We are now living with constant concern for the health and livelihoods of our loved ones, friends and ourselves. The overriding feeling that we are not in control of events is a consistent source of stress and fatigue.
The pandemic has changed our lives indefinitely. Like millions of others, I rarely worked from home before March and I have now not set foot in the office for over six months. For many of us home working is the new normal and managing projects, cases, transactions, customers and teams is done via Teams or Zoom calls. The impromptu water cooler chat for now feels a thing of the past, our social lives heavily regulated.
The impact of COVID-19 on our mental health
All of this is certainly taking its toll on our mental health. In July, UK charity the Centre for Mental Health forecast that at least half a million more people in the UK may experience mental ill health, including anxiety, depression and loneliness, as a result of COVID-19. The incidence of depression alone has been found to have doubled during the pandemic, according to figures released by the ONS (see mental health charity Mind’s response).
And while the damaging effects of the pandemic have been felt right across the community, the UK government’s COVID-19: mental health and wellbeing surveillance report published last month, highlights the disproportionate mental health impacts on young adults and women in particular.
Resilience has become a watchword of our times in the business world and beyond. But this is a real skill, not a superficial battering ram. Before we battle on, the need for us to check in with ourselves and see how we are really doing has perhaps never been more important. Understanding how we are feeling at any moment enables us to use strategies to manage our mood and stay in control.
Thomson Reuters’ Mental Health Day
In recognition of this need to give ourselves this checking-in time, Thomson Reuters has recently decided to grant its employees a Mental Health Day this coming Friday, 9 October. Practical Law editorial teams will therefore not be working on this day and any Ask queries will be responded to as soon as possible the following week.
This day will become a permanent company holiday taking place on or around World Mental Health Day each year. CEO, Steve Hasker, has said the new company holiday should be used “to practice whatever methods you use to help cope with emotional and physical pressures”.
I aim to get out on my bike (weather-permitting) and catch up with family and friends.
Hasker sees the company’s new Mental Health Day as the start of a “broader effort to embed wellbeing into our workplace culture”. The company will be holding virtual activities across the company in October designed to strengthen employee mental health and fight the stigma associated with mental illness.
Key Practical Law resources
Practical Law has published several resources to help you and your teams manage mental health at this time:
- Mental health, stress and wellbeing in the legal profession: an introduction explores the nature of stress, its prevalence for lawyers, and the causes of stress for those employed in the legal profession.
- Managing pressure to avoid harmful stress: the importance of self-awareness outlines the differences between pressure and stress, the signs and symptoms of stress, and the different ways in which individuals respond to pressure.
- Looking after your mental wellbeing to avoid harmful stress: the six habits of resilience and wellbeing examines the six habits of resilience and wellbeing.
- Workplace stress: six habits to help you meet your management responsibilities looks at stress and wellbeing in the workplace from a manager’s perspective.
- Improving the mental health of in-house lawyers considers the impact of mental illness on the economy as a whole, and how it could affect your organisation and your team.
- Dealing with anxiety, finding balance and maintaining wellbeing during the COVID-19 pandemic provides some useful tips and strategies to help deal with the current uncertainty, together with links to relevant, trusted resources.