Life as we know it is rather different for us all at the moment. The COVID-19 pandemic means that ‘normal’ has changed and with that comes a lot of extra worries that we have to deal with. Mental Health Awareness Week takes place this month (18th - 24th) and for many people, rather than thinking about mental health at work it is mental health at home that we need to be focusing on.
While key workers are out keeping things going, the vast majority of the UK population are adhering to the Government guidance to stay home. While we may understand the reasons, it can still be difficult to cope with the uncertainty surrounding our health, our finances and our day to day lives.
Awareness of our mental health is important and there are things we can do to help relieve the stress by taking action now. We can also use this time to focus on the positive steps we can be taking for the future.
Some effects of COVID-19 on mental health
The health risk
One of the biggest concerns for everyone is the immediate health risk of falling ill with COVID-19. Everyday there are new reports, new statistics and more speculation, all of which can build up and make us worry more. The best advice is not to focus on the negatives, instead look at the positives; the people who have recovered and the stories of kindness and solidarity seen throughout the country.
Read the information on the Government and NHS websites for the most accurate and reliable information about the pandemic and the steps you should take to avoid contracting COVID-19. Only reading news from reliable sources can help prevent the feeling of overwhelm which is better for our mental health.
The financial worries
Some warehouses that provide essential items may still be open during the pandemic, but many Warehouse Operatives are currently unable to work because their employer has had to either close or reduce the number of employees to ensure a safe working environment. Concern over finances and worries over paying your bills can add to stress on your mental health, so it is important to find out as soon as possible what financial help is available in the UK.
- Furloughed Workers -If your employer does not have work for you due to COVID-19 then you may be furloughed. This means that you are still paid a proportion of your normal wage by your employer through the Government Coronavirus Job Retention scheme.
- Benefits - The UK Government has put a lot of financial help in place for workers affected by COVID-19. If you are not able to work because of the pandemic and have not been furloughed, or you are on a low-income as a result, then you should be eligible for benefits. There is alot of helpful advice about financial support you can claim on the Government website. For those following Government guidance to self-isolate (you or someone you live with has coronavirus or symptoms of coronavirus) or those who are shielding (you have received a letter from the NHS because you are considered ‘highly vulnerable’) you may also be able to claim Statutory Sick Pay.
- Bill Payment Assistance - One of the biggest strains on mental health is worrying about money and how to pay the bills. If you are still waiting on benefits then take steps to contact any organisations you owe money to and explain your situation. At this time they are especially sympathetic and may be able to offer financial help by arranging a suitable payment plan until your financial situation is more stable. Just keep in mind that these bills will still have to be paid, so plan carefully to avoid further problems in the future. For more help, Citizens Advice has some useful information on their website about finding assistance and things you can do if you are worried about paying your bills.
Positive steps you can take for your mental health while not working
When times are tough it can be difficult to see a positive, but when else have you had this much time to really focus on your future? In recent blog posts we have looked at job roles of the future and how to change career – now is the perfect opportunity to start that new path.
So instead of worrying about being unable to earn now, look ahead and use your time to improve current skills and learn new ones so that you are ready for the return to work – which WILL happen.
Learn new skills
The Department of Education recently put together The Skills Toolkit which gives access to free digital and numeracy courses from beginner to advanced levels which can help you build and improve skills for the future.
There are lots of other online courses available, both free and paid, in a wide variety of sectors including business and finance, health and social care, IT and graphic design. If English is not your first language then now would be an ideal time to improve your English skills. The National Careers Service has more information about where to find good quality, free online learning courses.
Read our blog for more resources to develop your Warehouse Operative skills.
Another important way to take care of your mental health while you are staying home is to develop your personal skills. This could be something like taking an online course to learn a new hobby, developing problem solving skills by playing logic puzzles and games or organising activities for your family at home or with friends online.
Another option to consider is volunteering. You must meet certain criteria before you can volunteer during COVID-19, but if you are healthy and not high risk then you can help others with things such as shopping for food, delivering medicine or talking to isolated people on the phone. Contact your local council to find out about how you can apply to volunteer.
Update your CV
While you are not working, you should update your CV so that it is ready for future job applications. You should include how Coronavirus affected your most recent job and show employers what new skills you have acquired during your experience staying at home and how those can be used in the workplace.
Some examples might be:
- Communication skills – your ability to use online tools and social media to communicate with others. Any volunteer work you may have done.
- Leadership skills – motivating others to do activities while confined to home.
- Problem solving – resolving conflicts among family members.
- Teaching skills – if you have children at home, your home schooling experience can be a bonus for your CV.
- Positivity skills – your ability to make the most out of a difficult situation.
- Flexibility skills – being able to adapt to different situations.
- Read our Top Tips for CV Writing to help you update your CV.
What are the in demand jobs in the UK during COVID-19?
If you are fit, healthy and able to work there are still many in demand jobs in the UK that are in need of workers. The most in demand jobs are those that encompass essential roles in the health, food and transport sectors.
To find out about possible job vacancies in your area, contact your local Blue Arrow branch.
Taking action by following some of our suggestions during these unusual times will help prepare you for the future and can help to improve your overall mental health and well-being.
If you are worried about COVID-19 you can find advice at the NHS website Every Mind Matters.
If you need to speak to someone about mental health concerns you can contact the Mind helpline.