COVID-19 has drastically changed the nature of work – businesses were forced to pivot their environment and employees have had to keep up with profound changes in their personal and professional lives. Living in a time of uncertainty, it’s not surprising that there has been a rise in mental health concerns.
Depending on the state of your organization, you and your employees could be working remotely. Alternatively, you may be working modified duties on-site or running on staggered rosters. These changes, combined with the ongoing economic and health threat of COVID-19, can have a significant impact on your staff’s wellbeing.
As their manager, it’s your responsibility to brainstorm ways on how you can offer support, particularly those struggling with anxiety, depression and other mental health concerns.
Communication and Support
Supportive and empathetic communication from managers is crucial. You can purchase high-visibility workwear online or provide laptops for your team, but if they do not feel your presence during the pandemic, you’ll lose their trust.
During these uncertain times, it’s important that you think of ways you can provide a mentally healthy workplace – even from afar:
Here are some ways you can offer support:
- Maintain regular communications with employees. For remote employees, schedule video conference calls weekly.
- Keep your team updated on your business’s response to the COVID-19 outbreak.
- Make sure your staff is aware of the support that is available to them.
- Learn more about your employees’ individual circumstances and consider different options to support their unique needs.
- If you are concerned with a particular employee, check in with them. Have a conversation with them as soon as possible.
- Provide strong IT guidelines and support for remote working employees, so they can be fully productive.
- Agree on working hours, so employees know that they need not work beyond.
If your team needs more structured support, establish or connect them to an employee assistance program (EAP) or to mental health services and resources external to your business. It may not be your job to counsel them, but it is your role to support them.
Conduct a mental health risk assessment in the workplace to gain a great foundation from which you can implement mental wellness strategies. The assessment should consider all risks to your employee’s psychological health, as well as risks that can arise from sudden changes to work arrangements (such as the sudden change in environment).
Consider the following psychological hazards that have arisen during the pandemic:
- Traumatic events
- Increased work demand
- Exposure to aggression and violence
- Serious illness or death of clients and/or colleagues
After the assessment, consult your staff and communicate with them your desire to support them. Your employees can offer ideas on how you can help them manage their mental health concerns.
Education and Awareness
Leaders and managers should educate themselves on the impact of mental health in the workplace, as well as the measures they can implement to foster a better environment. A mentally healthier workplace promotes productivity and eagerness in the team. These measures matter as most businesses strive to survive during the pandemic.
Start by looking for signs of struggles among your employees. These struggles serve as eye-openers as to how you can promote and establish a healthier workplace. When it comes to assessing how your employees are coping, watch out for changes in body language.
Although personal demeanor is difficult to read as your people work remotely, it is a reliable indicator of mood, as can the speed of employee response and the underlying tone of their phone calls and emails.
Also, changes in an employee’s attitude toward productivity and work serve as indicators. Keep in mind, however, that significant workplace changes may have caused these responses. Either way, constantly monitor your team for any signs of a struggle.
Keep an Eye on Your Mental Health
As a manager, it’s easy to get distracted by meeting the needs of your employees while forgetting about your concerns. Still, it’s important to check your mental and emotional health. Maintain regular check-ins with your supervisor or a trusted colleague who can share their insight into your professional situation. Refrain from censoring your thoughts when it comes to the pandemic’s challenges; be frank with your feelings at and beyond work.
Sharing your experiences with the team can also build the latter’s trust in you. Acknowledging the difficulties of your current arrangement encourages your employees to feel more comfortable speaking about their difficulties.
The pandemic is tough on everyone, even on your team. Employees struggling with the change, however, need not walk alone. As their leader, support them in their struggles to not just benefit your company, but for the sake of helping out during these trying times, too.
Author: Carli Reed