We are in the middle of Mental Health Awareness week and now, more than ever, this is the time for managers to be listening to their employees. It’s difficult enough to know how some people are feeling at the best of times, and now is not the best of times!

After seven weeks of lockdown some of the stresses of isolation are starting to show. People are desperate to get out and see friends, meet relatives and get back to normal. But there is no clear light at the end of the tunnel. For many people there is no chance of returning to anything resembling normality until there is a vaccine or an effective treatment. That’s still months away, which is a depressing thought.

Attempting to balance working at home with being a parent and part-time teacher is stressful enough. Add the genuine fear of being infected every time you venture outside your front door and we have a very real problem. It’s hardly surprising that some people are struggling.

As good manager you have been doing your best to keep in touch with people and support them. But there’s a limit to how much you can help from a distance on the end of a phone. This is why it’s so important to take the time to listen effectively. It’s being sensitive to what is not being said as well as the superficial conversation. Now is the time to openly talk about how people are coping.

Let your people know it’s OK to be finding it hard. Let them talk about the issues. You probably can’t do much to help, but providing a sympathetic ear is a good start. As we move from full lockdown to a messy partial ‘back to work’ scenario we will all be facing  new pressures and difficult decisions. Do your best to reduce the stress on your people and keep listening.