The survey, released during Mental Health Awareness Week, discovered that since the first Covid-19 lockdown six in ten workers from museums, galleries, theatres, stately homes and castles have seen an increase in staff or volunteer mental health concerns at their organisation.

58% have also reported an increase in staff or volunteer anxiety, while 65% of those surveyed believe Covid-19 has exacerbated mental health issues in the heritage sector.

Reopening anxiety

The research found 55% of heritage workers feel anxious about returning to work in person when their organisation reopens. The main reasons why workers feel anxious about returning are concerns about visitor behaviour (38%) and concerns about the risks of catching Covid-19 (37%).

Visitors not wearing masks (31%), volunteers not wearing masks (31%) and visitors not adhering to social distancing (31%) are also key reasons why workers feel anxious about reopening.

Challenges facing heritage attractions due to Covid-19

Of those surveyed, heritage workers feel the impact of job losses on staff mental health (27%), increased workloads (26%) and staff stress and anxiety (25%) are the biggest challenges heritage attractions are facing due to Covid-19.

Increased pressure on remaining staff when others are furloughed (24%) and loss of volunteers (23%) are also key challenges facing the sector.

Wellbeing support

The survey revealed 91% of heritage organisations are providing additional wellbeing support in response to Covid-19.

The most popular wellbeing support that has been introduced by heritage organisations since Covid-19 are counselling services for staff and volunteers (34%) and providing third party/professional helplines (34%). This is closely followed by additional training for staff on managing mental health issues (33%), introducing mindfulness techniques (33%) and mental health first aiders (29%).

Despite many heritage attractions providing additional wellbeing support, seven in ten heritage workers still believe their organisation needs to do more to support staff and volunteer wellbeing.

When asked what else they would like their organisation to offer, respondents suggested they would like their workplace to have a health policy, health insurance, financial support and mental health first aiders.

“The latest research shows that many heritage workers are feeling anxious about reopening and 60% have seen an increase in staff and volunteer mental health concerns since the pandemic,” notes Faith Kitchen, heritage director at Ecclesiastical Insurance.

“We recognise that it is an incredibly challenging time for the heritage sector and heritage organisations need to carefully manage these risks. It’s encouraging to see that the 91% of heritage organisations have introduced additional wellbeing support to help their staff and volunteers during this difficult time.”

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