During a crisis such as the COVID-19 global pandemic, it is common for individuals to experience an increased level of anxiety. Fear, uncertainty, social isolation, work stress and home responsibilities have employees striving to balance their professional and personal life. It is harder than ever to care for parents, raise kids, maintain one’s own well-being and stay engaged with family and friends, all while still working.
Working remotely can be challenging at any time, but even more so amid the environment of a pandemic. Now employees have to deal with additional responsibilities at home and work during extended isolation. Though employees are not physically present in the office, keeping a productive workforce must include making their mental health a priority.
Organizations are realizing not everyone can work effectively at home, as physical interaction is often very necessary for their wellbeing. One of the biggest challenges is recognizing when someone is struggling, which is now more complicated to detect since we are not able see them in person.
During this time, organizations and HR departments are trying hard to maintain critical infrastructure and provide appropriate support for employees. Achieving this requires modifications to existing policies and brainstorming more precise strategies to address the current situation. Successful companies are coming up with best practices to protect employees from chronic stress and to uplift their mental health so they can continue to be productive. They understand that if they take great care of their people, employees will do their best work!
In this blog, we are sharing some tactics you can employ to take care of your employee’s mental health during a crisis.
1. Fine-tune staffing procedures and schedules
The current situation requires flexibility in procedures as it fits the best interest of your employees.
- When possible, and within applicable limits, rotate employees in high-stress jobs to a lower-stress job.
- Ensure no one feels left out or alone during this time of social isolation.
- Provide flexible work schedules for employees to emphasize mutual understanding in these times of increased uncertainty.
2. Regularly monitor and review staff member well-being
As we all adjust to remote working, remaining empathetic towards their team member’s psychological needs is just as important for a manager as it is holding employees accountable for their productivity.
- All managers should be advised to regularly monitor the wellbeing and psychosocial status of their team members to identify any health risks or emerging issues, and proactively respond to their needs.
- Promote acceptance and support from the top down
- Additionally, you can consider assigning an HR specialist to a group of employees to provide them a support system, monitor stress levels of these employees, and reinforce mental health practices
3. Maintain an environment of open communication
It is important to encourage employees to speak openly about their health concerns or any other issues, without any fear or judgment.
- Arrange forums regularly to interact with employees concerning their wellbeing and health condition. This will provide a platform for employees to express their concerns and ask questions.
- Incorporate transparency and keep your employees updated as new initiatives, regarding their health and how management is addressing the challenges, are planned.
- For individual concerns related to one’s mental health and well-being, encourage communication with trusted colleagues in addition to providing employee assistance programs with HR or their supervisor (as mentioned earlier).
4. Establish a method to identify and provide care for mental health conditions
- It is particularly important to pave a clear path to help since the stigma associated with mental health may cause employees to be reluctant in seeking support for both COVID-19 or any mental health related issues.
- As time and resources permit, provide remote workers with training on basic mental health/psychosocial care principles to increase self-care knowledge.
- Provide employees impacted by the outbreak with access to sources of psycho-social support, making this as much of a priority as ensuring their physical safety.
- Resources within the community include telehealth professionals, helplines, and outlets to de-stress such as exercise.
5. Last but not least don’t forget to have fun
Difficult times warrant extra support to strengthen your work team and build their motivation. Here are some ideas to consider, as they help build trust and enthusiasm across your organization.
- Arrange virtual team-building activities and events.
- Plan virtual games and quizzes to help lessen the impact of isolation while maintaining workplace camaraderie and friendships.
- Organize activities and celebrations, asking employees to share their fun pictures, such as amateur haircuts, cooking experiments, work from home pictures.
Most professions require us to work in a high-pressure and deadline-driven work culture. With the added challenges caused by the pandemic, there is an inevitable toll on our physical and mental well-being that might go unnoticed if not addressed. Even during times of increased social distancing and remote working, people can still maintain social connections and care for their mental health.
During this pandemic, we all must recognize, accept and take steps to manage job stress and build resilient teams. Remind yourself, that despite the current challenges and frustrations, it is most important to keep your health in the forefront. Additionally, make sure to recognize the efforts and sacrifices made by your colleagues to fulfill their professional commitments.
Leadership needs to regularly communicate the importance of prioritizing mental health. They must assure that individuals are not alone in their challenges. Workplace leaders should spread the thought that “It is okay to not be okay” as there is strength in vulnerability, not weakness. Let your employees know that you are with them if they need help. Together, we are all stronger.