I mean, 2020. Need I say more?
To say this year has taken a toll on everybody is an understatement. It's wholly flipped our way of life-shaking the entire world. We don't even know when the world will go back to normal at this point.
With elections, the pandemic, forest fires, the protests - it's been a never-ending cycle of one stressful situation after another.
This whole environment with work - everyone's a superhero now. Seriously. Your employees deserve capes.
But do they realize that? Do they feel appreciated? Do they feel safe enough to share what's happening and how it's personally affected them? As a good employer - one of the only sources of consistency in these current tumultuous times, it's your responsibility to look after your employees' mental health. You never know who might need it.
Below, we've explored a few ways to ensure your employee's mental health is being taken care of and addressed when required.
Build a culture of support and "check-ins."
There's much hesitation around "opening up" in a workplace environment. People are scared that if they talk, it might limit the opportunities they get, hinder promotions, and could, in general, be an indicator of weakness.
They need to feel like they can share and reach out if they need help without interfering with work opportunities and responsibilities. Just the simple act of asking how someone is doing, personally, can make a huge difference. Checking in with colleagues personally can create an open environment and make people feel comfortable sharing what they might be going through. This will enable the company to get them the help they might need.
Offer flexibility and be inclusive.
One can never really know what's going on in people's personal lives and how it affects them. Protests, riots, elections. Give people the benefit of the doubt. They might need the time off they've asked for without any interruptions or last-minute work requirements.
The situation, your needs, and your team's needs, it'll all continue to change for a while—the most we can check in on people as regularly as possible, especially during transition points. You can only help with problem-solving issues when you're aware of what's happening - so make sure you know.
Expect that the situation, your team's needs, and your own needs will continue to change. Check-in regularly — particularly at transition points. You can help problem-solve any issues that come up only if you know what's happening. Those conversations will also allow you to reiterate norms and practices that support mental health. Inclusive adaptability is about communication. It involves setting benchmarks that help people form and maintain the boundaries they need.
Model healthy behaviors
Being a good role model to others includes that you take care of your mental health as well. This way, your team members can feel they can prioritize self-care and set boundaries. Often, managers forget to take care of their mental well-being to get work done and focus on their team's well-being. Putting time aside to take a walk in the middle of a busy day shouldn't be looked down upon but somewhat encouraged. You can also share with your team that you're going to take a break, have a therapy appointment, or prioritize a vacation over work. All so that you don't burn out.
Increase awareness and access to professional help
With the advent of COVID-19 and work-from-home culture, the lines of work timings have become blurry. With this taking a significant toll on employees' mental health, some companies even offered to ensure their employees have a healthy state of mind. Companies have increased the number of counseling sessions through the Employee Assistance Programs (EAP) dedicated to the employees.
Simple pulse surveys can be conducted to ensure accountability and understand how people are doing from time to time. The global investment management firm, BlackRock, is one of the many organizations that have conducted pulse surveys during the pandemic. Surveys have helped them understand the primary stressors and needs of their staff. Since this information comes directly from the employees, it has helped introduce new programs, including remote management skill-building for managers, increased work flexibility and time off, and enhanced health and well-being support.
Offer apps and subscriptions
Providing employees with an opportunity for self-care can benefit them personally and affect their outlook towards their work. Shortly after going fully remote, Lattice, the people management platform, started offering its employees Modern Health, a platform that helps connect employees to professional help, including therapists, digital programs, and meditations. Internal surveys at Lattice revealed that workers needed more support while the company covers the fees.
Another company, Talend, held a seminar with Healthy Minds Innovations experts to understand ways to maintain resilience during tough times. Some company teams participate in their mental-health initiatives, such as self-guided meditation at the end of a long meeting.
Modify policies and practices
Something fascinating that I came across was a company that had a 'Thursday share circle' in a very 'show and tell' fashion. It enables employees to talk about hobbies and personal projects they've been working on during the pandemic. People talk about getting into chess, working on game design, or leveling up their cooking skills. It's been useful in giving everyone behind the system a personality. People feel closer to each other, find out about hobbies they might share, and increase their motivation levels when they realize how many new things they can be doing.
Encouraging employee engagement outside of work discussions is a few successful ways to help individuals cope with these trialing times. Since there aren't ordinary lunch hours or water-cooler banter, this is the best way to get to know your peers. Editing office practices like this to fit the current situation is essential for your employees.
To reduce pressure on associates, try to be as reasonable and adaptable as feasible. Update your policies and methods in response to the pandemic and civil unrest. Reframing performance reviews as opportunities for learning and compassionate feedback instead of evaluations will go a much longer way.
It's been a long road with an even longer one ahead. If this pandemic has taught us anything, it's mostly that you never really know what to expect. All we can do is help everyone and get through it together.