How to Support Employee Mental Health During the Coronavirus Crisis
By Dan Rose
The workplace is no stranger to mental health disorders in the best of times. Today, in a business environment turned upside down, employee anxiety is skyrocketing. An April 2020 poll by the Ginger Company revealed that 69% of employees surveyed said the coronavirus has caused the most stressful time of their career, and 88% said they had experienced moderate to extreme stress over the past four to six weeks. Furthermore, because it’s not clear how long the country will be battling COVID-19, so-called normalcy won’t be back any time soon. This means employers should be taking active steps to promote mental health among their employees.
Unlike physical ailments, mental health disorders can be hard to detect, and they often go months or years before being acknowledged. During this time, these conditions can take quite a toll on one’s livelihood and job performance. As attention grows regarding the impacts of poor mental health, more organizations are exploring ways in which they’re able to improve the mental well-being of their workforce. Below are a few actions your organization can take.
1. Erase the stigma that surrounds mental illness
While gains are being made regarding the stigma surrounding mental illness, it’s still an issue in the workplace. A recent survey by Limeade shows 47 % of employees who have disclosed a mental health issue at work have experienced a negative consequence by doing so. In many companies, mental illness is still a taboo topic to discuss at work and thought of as something deeply personal. However, to maintain professionalism, many employees fail to seek the treatment they need to get better.
To make sure your employees are receiving adequate care, try to establish a workplace environment that is open to these types of conversations and not one that makes employees feel ashamed of any mental ailments they may have. A comfortable employee is one that is more likely to seek recovery and will become a more effective worker in the long run.
2. Be compassionate towards your employees’ personal lives
When the stay-at-home orders are not in place, your employees might spend most of their days at the office, and it might get even worse when companies try to ramp business back up. But, don’t forget about their personal lives. A workforce consists of individuals from a variety of backgrounds, some of which are less than ideal. Depending on one’s circumstances, his or her personal life can be physically and mentally taxing, particularly when an employer lacks the understanding and flexibility needed to help alleviate tensions.
However, when an organization acts empathically, it can help reduce the symptoms of stress associated with the demands of an employer on top of a demanding personal life. In return, an employee who feels that their employer champions their well-being is much more likely to become a loyal advocate of their company and recommend I to their peers.
3. Give your employees meaningful work
When an employee’s mental health is suffering, it can be easy for them to appear as though they’ve “checked out,” and perform their job with less satisfaction. This might also be a consequence of not feeling engaged with the work they are given. Studies show that when employees are more engaged with their work, they have a greater sense of connection to their role.
Organizations can take a variety of measures to help boost engagement among their workforce. For example, it may be beneficial for an organization to streamline positions involving monotonous duties that can be performed by automated technology. Technologies like process automation software are the current driving force behind this shift.
Workers can also find more fulfillment in their roles by utilizing gamification programs to help create fun incentives and rewards for performing job duties. By doing so, not only will employees feel a greater sense of accomplishment and satisfaction within their role, but it can also have a positive effect on their job performance.
4. Cultivate impactful mental health policies
Most organizations maintain policies that prohibit discrimination against individuals of a different race, ethnicity, religion, or sexual orientation. Far less common are policies that protect those afflicted by mental health illnesses. If employers instill an environment that protects staff members with mental illnesses, they will create a more open workplace where employees feel safe and can be honest about what is troubling them. Not only will this create a healthier, more productive workforce, but it will help hold your workforce to a higher moral standard.
This can also help an organization identify instances where an individual may need help — that way, they can receive the attention they need as soon as it’s needed. If your organization does not have policies like these in place, it may be worth re-examining your current policies and implementing ones that can improve the lives of your workforce.