Stopping Covid-19 from getting into the workplace has been the biggest health priority for all businesses over the past 18 months.

But the ensuing impact of lockdown restrictions has led to a mental health crisis. Modelling by mental health charity Centre for Mental Health suggests new or additional mental health issues could hit up to 10 million people (almost 20% of the population) as a direct result of Covid-19.

So, what are dairy firms doing to alleviate the difficulties their employees have had or possibly will face as a result of the pandemic?

The Collective, as well as Müller, Danone and Alpro, have all invested in training team members to become mental health first aiders.

Danone, Alpro and Yoplait also granted greater flexibility for those who suddenly had to juggle home-schooling or caring responsibilities under the same roof as work. Alpro, for instance, gave employees with children an extra five days’ holiday to help them cope with the added pressure.

Biotiful Dairy also boosted its support by appointing a people director in January, who facilitates regular feedback sessions.

As well as this fundamental support, there have also been some more inventive approaches by suppliers to boost mental health.

Danone’s ‘One Health’ programme seeks to support workers’ mental and physical health by providing them with things like step challenges, virtual exercise classes and nutrition tips.

The Collective, meanwhile, has introduced podcast-based content to some of its meetings so its team can get away from their screens and go outside while working.

The brand also promoted new wellbeing initiatives during lockdown like ‘Take 2’, whereby workers are encouraged to take time away from their desks and do something for themselves.

There is a category-wide appreciation of the importance of mental health and wellbeing, says The Collective’s general manager Sarah Smart. Employers are now working to ensure they do the right thing in future.

“In a few of the industry conversations I’ve been in, there’s kind of been a nervousness that we’ve opened the door now to the mental health conversation. We’ve taken it seriously and we can’t go back,” she adds.

“It’s going to continue to be high on the agenda and we’re going to see that across the industry. It’s going to be very important for brands to talk openly and transparently about it with the right level of respect for their staff.”


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Responsible yoghurt: Dairymen yoghurts & potted desserts category report 2021