How Can Employers Support Employee Mental Health During the COVID-19 Crisis?
May 26, 2020

According to recent research, 45% of adults report that the recent COVID-19 pandemic is taking a toll on their mental health.

Employers are in a unique position to extend support to your workforce during this trying time. The steps your company takes can help ease the tension they're feeling and address any concerns that exist.

If any of your team members already suffer from anxiety or depression, social distancing and self-quarantine measures can exacerbate feelings of helplessness and loneliness. This makes it even more important to reach out.

 

Signs That Employee Mental Health Is At Risk

Acting proactively to support the mental wellness of your employees starts with knowing the signs that someone is suffering. 

How can you differentiate if the coronavirus crisis is taking a serious toll on someone in your workforce? A few of the signs to look out for include:

  • Disengagement
  • Restlessness
  • Irritability
  • A decline in work quality
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Decreased productivity
  • Low morale
  • Lack of cooperation

If you notice any of these, the root of the problem might not always stem back to anxiety over COVID-19. Still, it's worth putting a plan in place to address and mitigate these issues. 

 

How Employers Can Help

Helping everyone through this trying time is a company-wide effort and should not fall squarely on the shoulders of one manager.

Your executive team can work together to establish an environment of transparency and motivation that encourages your workforce forward. Let's review a few of the steps to put into place.

 

Communicate Clearly and Regularly

Part of the uneasiness that employees might be feeling stems from the fact that the future remains ambiguous. They don't know how long they'll be in this situation or even what tomorrow holds.

Avoid withholding information from your employees or keeping them in the dark as you make plans to move ahead amid the recent crisis. As early as you can, communicate with your team members and let them know exactly what's going on. Address the short-term changes, along with your realistic plans to move forward.

If you're shifting to a remote work environment, make sure everyone knows their roles and expectations and is equipped with the tools they need. As you communicate with your staff, pay attention to your tone and the way you're delivering the sentiments.

Stay calm, remain level-headed and include statements that address both the logical and emotional side of the situation.

 

Remain Accessible

If you haven't established an open-door policy yet, now is the time to do so.

Make sure your employees know they can come to you with their concerns and you'll do your best to respond as quickly as possible. 

As you enact this policy, keep in mind that the concept of "business as usual" has temporarily flown out the window. Your employees are feeling the weight of an entirely new work situation and many of them will be unable to step into their new role without an ounce of frustration.

This is especially the case for parents who are now working from home and trying to balance family time with work obligations. Managers who are flexible and understanding during this transitional time can help quell feelings of guilt.

 

Encourage Colleague Interaction and Connection

Now more than ever, team connection is key. If you're all working remotely, encourage employees to communicate with one another and interact with their colleagues.

Rather than relying on individuals to initiate this contact, make it a company-wide priority. In addition to setting up daily or weekly video calls to allow employees to "see" one another, utilize messaging apps to stay connected on a more regular basis. From Slack to Google Hangouts, there are myriad tools designed to foster team communication.

Encourage your employees to use these tools to discuss more than the next project task. You can also set up separate channels for more social discussions to promote a sense of normalcy.

For someone who's feeling especially lonely or disconnected, this kind of non-work-related chatter can deliver a major social boost.

 

Allow Time for Breaks

Expecting employees to sit in their home office for eight hours straight is unrealistic. It can also lead to mental strain, emotional distress, and physical fatigue.

Space your meetings and deliverable timelines far enough apart that everyone has a chance to make lunch, take a stretch break, go for a walk around the block or even squeeze in a quick yoga session. 

 

Check-In With Managers

In their quest to help employees feel supported during this transition, employers shouldn't forget to check in on their managers, too.

During this sensitive time, they're carrying even more responsibilities than usual. They're the direct point of contact for the team members who report to them. As such, they're likely fielding calls and concerns on a daily, if not hourly, basis.

Ask them how they're doing and what you can do to support them. Do they need technology for their teams to work from home? Do they need an extra person to help them guide their workforce through this change? 

They might not always express their specific needs, so this is why it's important to hold regular meetings to ensure they know they're supported and appreciated.

 

Supporting Mental Health as a Team

The recent COVID-19 crisis has ushered in an unprecedented time in history. Never before have employers been tasked with handling a challenge quite like this one. 

If you've noticed that your employee mental health is suffering due to recent events, there are steps you can take. The ideas in this post can help your team members feel connected and supported during this difficult time.

 

If you’d like to discover more ways to protect yourself and your company during COVID-19, visit our Resource Center.

 

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