Hopes of moving beyond the pandemic and its vast influence on our work and personal lives have begun to diminish. For leaders, it’s important to continue monitoring and managing your employees’ mental health during these difficult times.
Employees may struggle as COVID cases increase, local and federal orders go back to wearing masks, and limited occupancy is reinstated in select locations. School is also just around the corner, and there is uncertainty in what that may look like for the American household.
Companies can support the mental health of their employees with purposeful actions and programs that demonstrate you care. If you notice employees exhibiting any of the following behaviors, it may be a good time to check in with them:
- Mood swings and erratic behaviors
- Easily irritated or frustrated; anger
- Unnecessary fear, worry or anxiety
- Decreased productivity
- Abuse of drugs, alcohol or other vices
Strong programs and an employee-first mentality can also help keep stress at bay. Here are four key areas to consider.
Employee Assistance Programs (EAP)
Many companies provide help through mental health services. An EAP is a voluntary, work-based program that offers free and confidential assessments, short-term counseling, referrals and follow-up services to employees for personal and work-related problems.
EAPs address many problems affecting mental and emotional well-being. During the pandemic, we’ve seen a rise in alcohol and substance abuse, stress, grief, family stresses/problems and psychological disorders. Guidance in these areas is the foundation for EAPs.
There’s a good chance your employees are unaware of their EAP or have forgotten about it since enrolling in benefits. Now is a good time to remind them of what help is available and how to use the benefit.
Flexibility with Work
Employees may still need some flexibility as emergency orders are re-instituted and case numbers rise. Some companies were just beginning to bring employees back to the office, but new mandates and personnel safety concerns can quickly become a stressor for employees. Leaders should be mindful and assist employees, whether they are at work and or home, to navigate the new orders. Be flexible on work schedules (flex hours), working from home and compressed work weeks.
Encourage employees to be physically active. Exercise has positive effects on one’s mental health by reducing anxiety, depression and negative moods. It can also increase self-esteem and thought processes.
Consider incorporating exercise into the workday. At The Miller Group, we hold “Walking Wednesdays” where we take 30 minutes in the morning to walk as a group. We’re also known to hold quick exercise challenges – seeing who can hold a plank or wall-sit the longest, for example. Last week, the challenge was who could do the most sit-ups. Everyone who participates gets wellness program points and there’s a small prize for the winner. It’s good exercise, provides a quick mental break and builds culture.
Everyone wants to feel valued and that their work matters. Employee’s mental health can be negatively impacted when they feel they are not of value to the company or not recognized for their contribution to the company’s success. This can become especially important for staff working remotely who may feel forgotten or disconnected.
Recognition can be as simple as an email praising the actions of an employee. It can be small gifts such as their favorite drink to thank them for what they have done. When choosing how to recognize employees, think about their Individual Preferences. For example, some people value public recognition during a meeting while others may find it uncomfortable. If you are unsure of how your team members prefer to be recognized, simply ask them, “How do you prefer to be recognized for a job well done?” Or have employees fill out a quick survey.
Safety goes beyond physical factors. We must also be mindful to address mental health as well. We all look forward to when we can get back to the work we enjoy doing. Hopefully, we are near the end of the pandemic, lockdowns and mask orders. Until then, let’s look out for one another.