Mental Health at Work during Coronavirus: Guidelines for Leaders. The COVID-19 pandemic continues to affect people around the world. After several months, it seems like a normal life is still very far from coming back. All of this is taking a toll on the mental health toll of many.
A recent study published in the Medical Journal of Australia showed how this pandemic has affected mental health. In it, we saw that these issues have been twice as common during the pandemic compared to before it. On the other hand, over a third of Americans have been diagnosed with signs of depression, anxiety, or both ever since the pandemic began. This is thanks to the United States Census Bureau’s findings.
There are many different reasons for this. The different measures like social distancing and isolation, are stressful for people. Besides, homeschooling their children, worrying for their family members, their finances, and jobs hasn’t helped at all in this situation. Not to mention the fact that they are now less independent and can’t follow their usual routine. All of this can lead to an increase in substance abuse, family violence, and self-harm. Thus, the mental-health of people has become another crisis in the midst of all of this.
How COVID-19 can affect workplace mental health
As an employer, you must take care of the mental health of your employees during this crisis. Keep in mind that they can develop anxiety, fear, stress, depression, and other issues in the workplace. All of this as a result of the pandemic.
All of this can put a heavy weight on the shoulders of people, alongside the normal demands of their jobs. They can:
- Feel overwhelmed
- Lose concentration
- Make mistakes and poor decisions
- Reduce their productivity
- Even burn out entirely
In some cases, these mental health issues may be new. However, in others, this situation could only worsen pre-existing ones.
Mental Health at Work during Coronavirus, Companies, and Mental Health resources
More often than not, the general public still considers mental health as a Taboo and has a stigma over it. Because of this, most people don’t feel comfortable sharing their issues with their managers or coworkers.
Some companies may offer limited mental health resources for their employees. However, they fail to talk with them about it and maybe help them more than they do. In other cases, some companies don’t offer even the bare minimum for these issues. We know this thanks to the Transamerica justify for Health Studies report. In it, we saw that 17% of US employers said they didn’t offer any resources at all.
If there is something good that we can take from this pandemic, is the fact that we know now how companies didn’t consider the mental health of their staff. So, we now have the opportunity to fix this and establish some protocols or systems to deal with these issues.
The National Alliance of Healthcare Purchaser Coalitions reported that around 53% of employers are looking to provide better conditions for the mental health of their employees. All of this as a result of the pandemic and its consequences.
The importance of improving mental health in the workplace
Studies have found that poor mental health in the workplace has negative effects and can be a burden on employers. However, the implementation of policies and programs that seek to address and improve mental health has turned out to be a good way to increase ROI.
A Deloitte study of Canadian employers found out something really important. Turns out that by investing in workplace mental health programs, companies can save more money than by doing nothing. It’s not a surprise to see that these companies are seeing a lack of disability claims. Now, the workers show up more often at work and their rates of employee productivity have increased a lot.
If you want to address mental health issues in your company, you must be open-minded. First, start from the beginning, include employee representatives on a working group. There, they will help you to determine what the problems present within your organization are.
This way, you will be able to create policies and deliver support systems. These, in turn, can give you give many benefits. All of this can include building a supportive workplace culture. Thanks to this, your staff will feel comfortable discussing their mental health issues without fear of discrimination.
Good examples of employee mental health initiatives
There a lot of ways that employers can take the necessary steps to help their employees’ mental health. Some examples can include:
Mental Health at Work during Coronavirus. Have a mental health policy
For this, all your actions should revolve around the creation of mental health policy for your workers. At the same time, you should set some clear goals and expectations for this.
Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs)
You can find this through an outside provider and it offers a set of services. Some of these are confidential counseling, advice, guidance materials, wellbeing courses, and more.
Mental Health at Work during Coronavirus. Health and wellbeing apps
This is an app that your employees can download on their personal devices. It can provide them some sort of guidance on aspects of health and emotional wellbeing at work.
This is a space within your company’s network where employees can easily access materials.
Mental Health at Work during Coronavirus. Offer flexibility
An important factor about mental health issues is the stress that comes with a work/life balance. This can even be more stressful for people who are working from home and are faced with in-house responsibilities. They can lose focus which in turn, once they see they aren’t performing as well as before could get stressed. So, for this, you must find ways to create a compromise or tailor work solutions to suit these employees’ needs.
Survey your staff
You won’t know how many of your employees are facing mental health issues if you don’t ask them. Granted, they might not answer you in fear of being shamed or even fired. So, you should send regular pulse surveys to ask how employees are feeling and what the company can do to help. We recommend doing this in a way where they can answer anonymously. Thus, they will feel comfortable and answer honestly.
Mental Health at Work during Coronavirus. Train your leadership
Don’t forget about your managers as you can’t do everything yourself. They also need to know how to identify the signs that tell us if an employee is going through a hard time. Thus, you will need to teach them what are the steps to take to discreetly, and with compassion help the employee.
Appoint Mental Health First Aid Officers
Many companies now have employees who act as Mental Health First Aid Officers. To do this, they must complete a training course and test them to assist distressed coworkers and get them the help they need. So, as you can see, this is just like when you train a set of employees as First Aid Officers or Fire Wardens to assist their coworkers if needed.
Besides the implementation of these programs, you must also teach them well and regularly. This way, your employees will know how and when they can access them.
The role of leadership in addressing work stress and mental health
Leaders help to establish the culture within an organization. Because of this, they have a lot of influence over all other employees and layers of management.
In leading by example, the leadership in your organization can help to normalize and erase the taboo of talking about mental health issues. This way, your employees will feel that’s safe to do so as well.
Managers should also regularly check in on their employees. Mental Health at Work during Coronavirus. This is especially important when talking about their mental health at work during COVID-19. You can include this as part of their duty of care.
Leadership also has an important role to play in advocating any mental health policies and programs in the workplace and encouraging employees who need to use them to do so.
Mental Health at Work during Coronavirus. Keeping employees safe both physically and mentally can be an ongoing challenge, but companies that do this well have loyal and productive staff who are engaged and make the organization succeed.