The importance of positive mental wellbeing during lockdown

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We have all been reading about the toll that lockdown measures are having on people’s mental health, with increased levels of anxiety, loneliness and depression across the world.

Mental Health Awareness Week, which took place between the 18th and 24th May, was therefore particularly relevant this year, as was Stress Awareness Month in April and so we put particular focus on activities that would help our staff maintain or improve their positive mental health.

I have had a passion for mental health from a young age. My mother was a Psychiatrist in the NHS for nearly 30 years and I remember coming home to find cards and presents on many occasions and asking her what they were for, and she would say they were a thank you from her patients for helping change their lives. It made me feel immensely proud and so when she passed away completely unexpectedly in 2015 from an aneurysm, I decided I wanted to do something in her honour. This led me to take a voluntary role with a mental health charity and I am currently a Trustee and Vice Chair of the Board for Quo Vadis Trust, a charity that provides social housing, care and support in South East London for people living with mental health challenges.

My voluntary role with QVT has helped me in my role as HR Director for Clearbell to keep positive mental health a priority all year round. During these uncertain times, we found celebrating these relevant awareness weeks was a great way to encourage our team to recognise the importance of looking after our health and wellbeing. I have been working in HR for over 20 years and I have never experienced anything like this…

When the lockdown measures were put in place back in March, like many other businesses our focus was on the logistics of working from home. However, as soon as we realised the set up would be more long-term, we moved quickly to ensure we had more continuous health and wellbeing support for our team, to help combat the negative impacts of lockdown.

Having listened to webinars and explored online sources, we have been circulating various materials offering hints and tips on how to deal with stress, such as managing time effectively and taking regular breaks and exercise. We’ve also encouraged others to share their hints and tips for staying well. Iona, our Project Assistant, led an online yoga session, while Zoe, our Associate Director, led a virtual workout.

We recognise the importance of maintaining our company culture too. As a team we have been coming up with more initiatives to ensure we stay connected. This has involved holding our Clearbelly lunches virtually (and encouraging healthy eating), as well as hosting online meditation sessions and even taking part in a virtual escape room!

As restrictions slowly begin to ease in the UK, it has been important to start developing a strategy around our eventual return to the office. Of course, we want to bring everyone back together as soon as the government advises it is safe for us to do so, as our genuine friendships across the team are what make our culture special. To aid our return plans, everyone at Clearbell has filled out a staff questionnaire allowing them to voice any concerns over coming back to the office and we are doing everything we can to ensure colleagues feel safe and supported.

The past few months have been difficult on many levels, but it has been encouraging to see a stronger emphasis on self-care and positive mental health, which will no doubt leave a lasting legacy in the months and years to come.

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