The stress of daily life and the added worry brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic has taken a toll on our mental health. 25% of Canadians aged 18 and older screen positive for symptoms of depression, anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder. Social isolation, fear of job loss, financial worries, safety concerns, loneliness and changes in relationships undermine an individual’s well-being and quality of life. This can lead to increased absenteeism from work, lower productivity and decreased employee morale. Now, more than ever, it’s important for companies to increase their focus on employee mental health.
What is employee mental health?
Employee mental health is a term for the psychological, social and emotional well-being of employees in the workplace. It refers to how workers assess their environment, cope with stressors and describe whether they thrive or struggle at work.
What can employers do?
What can managers and leaders do to support people as they face new stressors, safety concerns, and economic upheaval? How can businesses strategically mold their culture to help employees navigate these mental health challenges? The role of employers/managers is to support their team members, including supporting their mental health. There are many techniques and strategies to do so.
- Provide training: For managers to recognize the signs of emotional distress so that they can respond supportively, they require training. Make mental health training mandatory for company leaders.
- Offer mental health coverage: Ensure that mental health services are included in your benefits plan at an affordable rate. Provide a health spending account to help offset out-of-pocket costs.
- Establish an Employee Assistance Program (EAP): Offer this resource to employees as well as to their immediate family members. Make it easy for employees to know who to talk to or where to go to access mental health resources. Provide direct access to mental health professionals via phone and/or in-person. Emphasize that your EAP can be accessed confidentially and free of charge. Make sure your supports are up to date and easy to access.
- Promote well-being: Build as much flexibility as possible into employees’ schedules. Offer access to apps that can help with sleep and stress reduction. Consider offering a meditation room, mindfulness training and/or yoga classes at work. Encourage employees to use their vacation time. Develop a return-to-work process so that employees who need to take a leave of absence because of a mental health issue feel supported when they come back. Create opportunities for employees to build connections with each other, such as through social events, affinity groups and electronic message boards.
- Be honest about your own mental health challenges. When managers describe their difficulties, it makes them appear human, relatable, and brave. This helps decrease the stigma associated with asking for assistance and cultivates trust in the workplace.
- Model healthy behaviours: Let your actions prioritize self-care so that your team feels they can also do so. Share what you are doing to help with your stress.
- Build a culture of connection: In order to notice the signs that employees are struggling, check in with each staff member on a regular basis. Ask specific questions about what support would be helpful. Listen. Promote mental health supports in a monthly newsletter. Offer workshops about mental health and resilience.
- Communicate: Keep employees informed about changes and/or updates. Clarify modified work hours. Set expectations about workloads. Let people know what can slide, if necessary.
- Modify policies and practices: Update policies and practices. Take a close look at rules and norms around flexible hours, paid time off, communication and paid/unpaid leave. Reframe performance reviews as opportunities for compassionate feedback and learning. Be explicit that these changes are to support the mental health of your employees.
- Offer flexibility: Flexibility of location and hours of work can help your team thrive amid the continued uncertainty. Normalize and model this new flexibility by highlighting how you’ve changed your own behaviour.
- Embrace positivity: Bring empathy, hope, trust, and compassion to your organization to help the work experience be positive and boost employee happiness. To create purpose and belonging, establish a social recognition program.
- Measure: A simple pulse survey done regularly can help you understand employees’ primary stressors and needs. Information gleaned helps build and adjust employee programs that enhance health and well-being.
- Make time for fun and humour: Games, chats and gatherings create fun, increasing productivity, relieving stress and building trust. Promote social events, affinity groups and electronic message boards.
Use the present situation as an opportunity to create a mentally healthy workplace culture. Build strong positive relationships. Make sure your employees aren’t working in isolation. Make work interesting, social and fun. Meet your personnel where they are and provide an environment of support and compassion. Supporting employee mental health will help your business survive and thrive.
Looking for a new position? Interested in some expert advice and assistance when hiring employees? Call the Calgary recruiting agency, Equation Staffing Solutions at 1-844-367-9618. We are a reliable, innovative, collaborative agency here to support you in your search for a position and/or personnel. Our experience will assist you! Contact us today.