How Leaders Can Support Employee’s Mental Health Amidst COVID-19

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Mental health concerns such as depression and anxiety are expected to increase among employees in the coming weeks as a result of the uncertainty created by COVID-19. In these trying times, business leaders must support their employees’ health and well being more than ever. 

Unquestionably, COVID-19 is a challenging time for everyone, and unfortunately, it could be some time before we have all the answers. For employers, allowing employees to work remotely can be a significant benefit- it may in fact be the saving factor keeping your business in operation during the pandemic. That being said, remote work can come with a range of its own challenges, especially during a time of social distancing.  Fortunately, we’ve identified 5 strategies to help your team stay mentally healthy while working at home.

Here are a few ways leaders can help support and advocate for mental health.

1. Communicate

With an overwhelming amount of updates surrounding the pandemic, your team will be looking to you for answers. During this period of unknowns, it is imperative that you communicate as calmly and clearly as possible. Internal communications should inform your team on the latest operational developments, important policy updates and where they can turn to find support. Even if the impact of COVID-19 is not immediately clear, transparency will be key to maintaining your team’s trust. Do your best to remain transparent and timely in your communications.

2. Stay Connected

Even if you’re required to be physically separated, that doesn’t mean you can’t stay connected. Leaders should remain available and encourage employees to interact with other co-workers throughout the day. Thanks to technology, there are several tools you can utilize to re-create and re-image the way you connect. Messaging platforms such as Slack or WhatsApp are great channels where your employees can communicate and share resources.  Instead of weekly meetings in the office, set up a video call using Zoom or Google hangout and check-in with your team.  Seeing the faces of your co-workers can make a huge difference in team morale and can help those working remotely feel less isolated.

3. Encourage Self-Care

It can be hard to find work-life balance when working from home, so encourage that your team-regardless of where they’re working- take time away from their work to unwind and recharge. Make sure that you’re assigning realistic tasks and timelines to avoid additional feelings of stress and recognize that extra time may be required as many will be dealing with anxiety in their new circumstances. If your organization has an Employee Assistance Program (EAP), check in with your provider to coordinate and communicate additional support for your team.

4. Empathize

Remind your team that they are not alone during these uncertain times- this is an extremely challenging time for everyone. Recognize that your team is likely feeling anxious, overwhelmed and concerned about the status of their work. Empathy has been shown to have a direct impact on employee productivity, loyalty, and engagement, so be sure to make yourself accessible for support and to answer any questions that they have.

5. Be Flexible

Many of your employees will likely be dealing with school and daycare closures or will have additional responsibilities caring for those who have been advised to self-isolate. As leaders, it is important to offer flexible work arrangements as these responsibilities could result in negative impacts to your team’s mental health. By offering flexible schedules, deadlines, or policies that permit additional time off, leaders can help employees navigate these challenging demands.

Most importantly, remember that we are all in this together. If you need additional mental health support, here are several resources you can provide your employees:


 

Robin Turnill, CPHR is founder and CEO and Mia McCannel is an HR consultant at Pivot HR Services.

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