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How to make employee mental health your main focus right now

by | May 12, 2020

About 1 in 6 adults has a mental health problem. Let that sink in. Then add that one-third of your life is spent at work. Respecting, supporting, and prioritizing mental health at the workspace is always important, but during a crisis, it’s more important than ever. Going through a major transition like COVID-19 is difficult for all of us. Humans are generally way better equipped to handle bad news than the stress of living in uncertainty. How is this shift affecting our work-life and what role does HR and management play in making sure their employees’ well-being is prioritized and that their workdays continue to be sustainable considering the additional mental pressure during quarantine? There are ways to make your employees’ wellbeing a top priority, let us walk you through 3 steps that you can implement immediately👇

1. Foster a supportive environment where mental health is always on the table 

The most direct approach to reduce any stigma around mental health is to repeatedly talk openly about it. But, talking openly about it can only emerge from a safe, non-judgemental space where your employees feel like being honest about their health isn’t to their disadvantage or something that will be used against them. Nearly 40% of people say their company has not even asked them how they’re doing since the pandemic began. So, how can we solve this? First, frequently check the pulse by either just simply asking, bring it up on your regular 1:1’s or even use tools like Mentimeter where you can create anonymous polls to check the status of your employees. 

Secondly, we’re all having our own unique experience facing different challenges right now. Fostering a supportive environment and reinforcing team cohesion is crucial so that your employees feel comfortable bringing up any mental health concerns, even if it’s not immediate work-related. Even so, be transparent in how you’re coping with your current reality. Transparency, if anything will open the doors for others to share and support each other while facing their own set of challenges. Just the realization of not being alone makes this whole experience way less intimidating. 

2. Adapt a solution-based approach

Present all the ways your company can support their mental health and ensure that they are equipped with the information and tools they need to prevent the negative outcomes of their new working reality (this is especially important for frontline workers). This will make an instant difference in your employees well being. A start could be to simply ask the question “What do you need today to feel supported?“ Provide simple solutions to support mental health like giving access to an online meditation app or encourage that lunch-walk to catch that daily exposure of vitamin D. Working from home and being constantly connected makes it even harder to recuperate. This is not the time to add unnecessary pressure. But to face the bigger picture, be prepared to put a solid mental health strategy in place to protect your employees in the long run, because that will determine how well you’ll be walking out of this. 

3. Reduce any uncertainty about the future 

Your employees need all the assurance they can get when living in an unpredictable environment. Whatever “new” we’re going back to. Catch up on eventual worries or expectations from your employees and be respectful towards the fact that your employees might have gone through a difficult time during this time in quarantine. Let it be done gradually and make sure everyone is informed of each step. On that note, it might even be time to re-define your own “normal”. Maybe some employees would benefit from working part of their time from their home setting? Maybe your company would benefit from having the office as an optional place for gathering rather than using physical presents as a way of keeping track of employees’ productivity-levels? Either way, now when countries around the world are slowly opening up again. Having a going-back strategy will reduce stress and lift a great deal of pressure off their shoulders. 

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