Like most people in the UK, the news is never off in my house these days. Whether it’s on TV, radio, or my phone, there’s a non-stop stream of speculation about coronavirus and its impact on our health and economy.

While it’s important to stay well-informed, the relentless negativity can have a real impact on people’s mental health.

From the start of the crisis, businesses have rightly been focused on mitigating the risk of staff’s exposure to the virus. Yet as lockdown continues, we also need to take stock of the mental health impact on the nation.

Social distancing is now part of everyone’s lexicon. We all understand the need to put at least two metres of space between ourselves and others to limit physical transmission. What it also means is putting distance between ourselves and those we rely on: our social support network of friends, family, and colleagues.

While the UK and Scottish governments have provided extensive and much welcome support to businesses throughout the crisis, nothing can fully allay concerns over job security or potential income loss. When those worries are added to fears about the virus itself, isolation or an unstable home environment, we get a toxic combination that could affect even those in the best mental health.

While all employers need to step-up their mental health support for employees, research tells us that they don’t find that an easy task. Figures from the CIPD and Simplyhealth show that only 31% of managers feel sufficiently confident to initiate discussions around mental health and help staff gain expert support.

With so many people working at home, it can be even harder for managers to pick up on cues that colleagues might be struggling. It’s really important that managers are regularly checking-in with their team and making full use of video calls, so interactions can be as personal as possible.

Speaking to businesses across Scotland, four mental health challenges have come up time and again.

Firstly, anxiety caused by the health risks of coronavirus, especially among staff who are or who live with someone identified as being in a vulnerable group. That’s not forgetting the stress parents and carers have been placed under throughout the crisis.

Secondly, accepting that we don’t know when the crisis will end. Even as we take the first tentative steps towards a new normal, we know that this will be a phased process. For some, social distancing measures, working from home, furloughing, will last longer than others as we press ahead with economic restart. That’s guaranteed to have an impact on the anxieties many feel.

Thirdly, the workload demands that high staff absences place on employees – due to people falling ill, needing to self-isolate, or look after others. This has been a particular challenge in critical sectors like healthcare, retail and logistics – where staff have gone above and beyond to keep the country moving and keeping vital food and medicines on our shelves.

And, fourthly, the challenges facing firms due to the critical drop in demand. I don’t think anyone imagines things will go back to the way they were. Businesses and jobs will unfortunately be lost. That’s why we need, and are working on, plans to protect the livelihoods of those worst affected by changes in circumstances.

Mental health can affect anyone of any status, at any time. We all have to be better at recognising the signs, either in ourselves or in someone else. Accessing the right support, even in these turbulent times, could just be one conversation away. Employers, just like everyone else, just need to be brave enough to initiate them.

Tracy Black is director of CBI Scotland