HR Managers Fear Rise in Absence Due to Mental Health


Wrote this on, May 23, 2020

HR Manager with employee

Mental illness affects around 1 in 4 of us in any normal year. But when the world is hit by an unexpected pandemic our mental well being is affected in ways we may never have imagined. Lockdown has resulted in staff working from home, having been furloughed, laid off or over worked as key workers. A staggering 86% of people surveyed have explained that remote working has had a negative impact on their mental health. 

The figure may seem large however it comes as no surprise following the statistic that 44% of people are anxious about returning to work. The sudden shift across not just the country is something we couldn’t have prepared for. Businesses too are struggling how to navigate during this colossal movement that keeps the company and employees’ welfare working in harmony.

Manager writing
HR Manager writing a task

HR managers in particular are fearful that employees may incur more absences due to burnout from working from home. Naturally working from home has more fluidity but the limit between work and home has no boundary, employees are working longer hours because they feel they should ‘be present’ constantly throughout the working day. A term referred to as ‘e-presenteeism’. The impact of juggling full time work, helping children with mind boggling school work along with other responsibilities is wearing thin on us and impacting our mental health. 

A recent study shows 58% of HR managers fear losing staff to sick leave due to the conditions of lockdown. As a nation, we are facing serious well being challenges. 30% of employees surveyed are currently experiencing anxiety. Workloads have increased with furloughed staff as well as being expected to pick up tasks not in their usual remit. The implications of working from home can lead to:

  • Stress
  • Burnout
  • Isolation 
  • Loneliness
HR Manager talking with employee
HR Manager talking with employee

How does this impact HR workload?

HR managers will need to think fast and act quickly yet efficiently to avoid staff requiring leave due to mental health issues. We are facing a challenge most of us have not yet experienced in our lifetime. The majority of companies in the UK were not and are not equipped for remote working or have the ability to navigate remotely long term. 

Social interactions with colleagues have become non-existent and Zoom calls are draining for even the most extrovert amongst us. On-site exercise classes, meditation sessions or mindfulness practises have now become redundant in working environments with most of us cooped up at the dining table for the entire day. HR managers need to think outside the box in order to keep staff happy with a healthy wellbeing with the little resource they have.

As A HR Manager What Can I Do?


Recent findings present communication is one of the most important aspects for employees during the current measures of remote working. Concerns have risen for not only stuff who have been furloughed but those that are still working. Senior management cannot predict the future but they are the cradle that holds the hierarchy together. Directors and executives are aware of the situation within their company.

It is important not to give false hope, but do make employees aware of the situation and check in regularly. You can host seminars with leaders once a fortnight to so active and furloughed employees feel included.


A study shows 54% of employees would like the opportunity to work from home in future. Not all personality types can adapt to working from home and have struggled to stay focused, motivated and productive. Families with kids and commitments may benefit from the option to work from home and can adapt their routines to suit. As a HR manager it would be useful to stress to management to talk to their teams to accommodate where possible.

Offer Virtual Support

Set up virtual mindfulness sessions just like you would at the office. Send out communication regularly to keep employees informed on how to take care of their mental health. These can be simple internal communication newsletters so employees know and understand the support system they have around them, even virtually. 

Equally, at a time where you as a HR Manager will be dealing with increase demand it’s important to prioritise your mental health as well.

“Don’t set yourself on fire to keep others warm.”

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