How To Help Support Your Employees’ Mental Health

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By Jessica Militare

A year into the Covid-19 pandemic, we’re collectively hitting what’s been coined the “pandemic wall.” The threat of a deadly virus coupled with economic uncertainty while juggling work and family are leaving many of us exhausted and burnt out.

Portrait of Florist Small Business Flower Shop Owner
Portrait of Florist Small Business Flower Shop Owner GETTY IMAGES

A recent American Psychiatric Association poll reported that 62% of Americans feel more anxious than they did in 2019. Another survey found that 65% of employees feel mental health issues have affected their ability to work. Many employers are responding with more resources to promote wellness. Below, explore five morale-boosting initiatives that managers and companies can take to support their people today and in a post-pandemic future.

Maintain A Solid Check-in System

According to a global study conducted in April 2020, nearly 40% of respondents said their company hadn’t asked how they were doing. If companies still aren’t inquiring about staff wellbeing today, it’s time. Managers instituting solo and team non-work related check-ins and listening sessions on an ongoing basis is a formalized way to hear from employees. That same study showed over 40% of employees want their managers to proactively ask about their mental health, and a direct call is the most effective way to check in. Video chats may allow managers to better identify signs of distress, but whatever method, consistent communication about staff wellbeing—and managers sharing how they’re feeling, too—shows vulnerability and fosters a compassionate working environment. Plus, check-ins can be an opportunity for managers to vocalize appreciation and recognize accomplishments.  

Formalize Breaks And “Off-Hours”

There’s been an emphasis on refashioning office norms in the remote work era, from scheduling virtual happy hours to reimagining team building activities. Creating space for socializing is necessary for morale, but with little boundaries between work and life, workplaces must equally value “offline hours.” To help manage workplace fatigue, companies can formalize and remind employees to take frequent breaks for non-work related activities, be it journaling, taking a nap, going for a walk, stretching, listening to music or nothing at all. Managers can implement scheduled off-hours for each employee so that time is honored and valued, no questions asked, and vocalize when they’re practicing self care too so it becomes normalized.

Mental Health Resources

It’s important for companies to provide more flexibility, like shifting work hours and deadlines. More institutional changes can be made to support working parents, especially working mothers. On the mental health side, business leaders can’t ignore the projected 50% increase in behavioral health conditions as a result of the pandemic. They play a major role in destigmatizing the issue through open dialogue and genuine action. Providing employees with access to mental health support groups, expert-led wellness webinars, and instituting a go-to mental health services contact are solid starting points.   

Provide Manager-Specific Support  

Employee support should extend to managers, too. Workplaces can provide managers with training and digital tools on how to identify symptoms of depression and stress, for instance. And as more of the population is vaccinated, managers should be equipped with office reopening plans so that they can address employee concerns and safety precautions. Manager support also looks like leadership encouraging managers to take time off, set boundaries and share their own feedback about workload and workflow. 

Be Transparent About Changes 

Since the start of the pandemic, one study showed that people who felt like their managers were not good at communicating were more likely to experience a mental health decline. With so much uncertainty, senior leaders and managers have an opportunity to meet the moment and offset stress by prioritizing transparency about company updates and changes, from office reopenings to modified work hours and even potential furloughs. Keeping employees in-the-know will not only help avoid confusion and allay any fears that they’re being left in the dark, but also conveys that they’re valued, supported team members.

All content provided herein is for educational purposes only. It is provided “as is” and neither the author nor publisher warrant the accuracy of the information provided, nor do they assume any responsibility for errors, omissions or contrary interpretation of the subject matter herein.