Help Your Employees Cope During COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic has drastically changed the way we live and work. Businesses are operating on a different level than most employees are used to. Many employees have transitioned to remote work, while others have to balance work, family, and children. Organizations must help employees cope with mental health issues during the pandemic to prevent burnout, anxiety, and stress.

Mind Share Partners found in a recent study that 42% of participants have noticed a decline in their mental health. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), many employees are concerned about several work-related things. For instance, employees are increasingly concerned about the risk of virus exposure. Some are struggling to juggle work and personal needs. Other employees now have to deal with a different workload. One requires different skills that can facilitate remote work and collaboration and help them perform their jobs better.

The overwhelming stress and pressure can lead to many mental health concerns and issues. Often, employees do not speak up or seek resolutions to the mental health issues they are facing. They do not have the tools or means to navigate these uncertain times. And they definitely lack support to tackle mental health issues on their own.

Mental health is an important part of overall health and wellbeing. It affects how we think, feel, and act. It may also affect how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices during an emergency. – website

Signs of Declining Mental Health in Employees

Mental health issues do not always surface as we expect them to. Many people who suffer from mental health issues come across as normal and happy. Many of them can smile and have normal conversations. It is not always easy to tell if an employee is suffering or on the verge of a breakdown.

It often catches management or leaders off-guard when employees resign, or work quality is compromised. We miss important signs that could have helped prevent chronic health illnesses or mental health diseases.

Adjusting to work during the pandemic leads to high stress, anger, and frustration. This can quickly manifest into depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), guilt, and even grief. Being able to spot signs of an employee’s declining mental health is key to providing help early.

There are many signs of declining mental health. Here are a few signs that are often missed yet important to watch out for among employees.

  • Inability to concentrate or focus during video or conference calls
  • Lack of enthusiasm for projects and tasks
  • Constantly worrying about getting sick
  • Easily frustrated over small matters
  • Quick or hot temperaments when dealing with co-workers or clients
  • Fear of not completing tasks on time
  • Sadness or a general unhappiness about work and related tasks
  • Missing meetings
  • Forgetting deadlines
  • Forgetting important information or details
  • Overall stress when deadlines are near, or projects are due
  • Exhaustion or easily tired through the workweek

What Can Your Organization Do?

As the pandemic continues to threaten the future of the workplace, organizations can take a proactive role in helping employees cope with mental health issues. A company thrives when its employees are at their optimum productivity, and employees can only perform well when they are healthy, and their mental health is not compromised.

When employees experience mental health issues, their productivity is low. Also, many other issues arise when an employee’s mental health is not well. Depression, stress, anger, and anxiety are just a few of the many concerns that employees are facing during this pandemic. Along with that, the stress they face can cause other health problems such as sleep disorders, problems concentrating, and chronic health ailments. In the long term, an employee with debilitating mental health issues can suffer from grave illnesses and diseases.

Your organization can help employees cope with mental health issues during the pandemic in many ways. This is important because it boosts overall performance among employees and the company.

Here are several cost-effective ways that you can start implementing right away.

1. Listen and communicate

The best way to know if an employee is struggling with mental health issues is to communicate. Employees may not voice their struggles out of fear of retaliation or coming across as incapable. Regular check-ins let employees know that the organization values them, and they are more inclined to tell you if something is wrong. It is also easier for management to sense an issue arising and resolve it before it gets out of proportion. The last thing you want is for your employees to burn out.

And forget those emails! Nothing beats a sincere phone conversation, even a quick one. Emails can be impersonal and lose their sincerity. Have a chat, not a long-drawn conversation. Ask how their day is and how the family copes with the pandemic. Simple questions can show how you can relate to your employees.

The long-term benefits of listening intently to your employees’ words and communicating regularly with them can help foster the relationship. Feeling like they belong and are important to the organization increases job satisfaction.

2. Leave the virtual office door open

For many, the work-from-home transition might be permanent. Without the normal daily interactions with your employees, it can be difficult to tell if something is wrong. The lack of pantry and lunchtime chats, the occasional “Hey, how are you?” and the ability to waltz into an office can create an atmosphere of isolation.

Employees must constantly juggle multiple priorities, especially those with children or elders in the home. No in-office time also means no getting away from the daily grind that comes with being at home. Let your employees know that your virtual office door is always open.

Make it clear that you care for their well-being and that they are more than welcome to “pop in” when needed. Open up communication channels, take the initiative in starting conversations about their mental health, and leave the door open without judgment or prejudice.

3. Provide options for mental health services

We often think that employees can cope or deal with mental health issues on their own. There is a misconception that everyone knows the subject and when to seek help. However, this is not always the case.

Many are unaware of the various mental health services that have been introduced to the workplace since COVID-19 started. Employees who have never struggled with mental health issues might not even know that they need to seek help.

Help employees cope with mental health issues during the pandemic by offering a list of available mental health services in their area or online. Telehealth services are easily accessible and available around the clock. Company insurance policies may have mental health services in place if referrals are needed. Online resources offer a discreet way of understanding mental health issues and learning about how to cope with them.

List these options to remind your employees that help is available should they require it. Make it easy for them to seek help.

4. Evaluate and update policies accordingly

The policies your organization followed before the pandemic might not apply anymore. With COVID-19 changing the workforce, evaluate policies and agreements regularly, review them when necessary, and update them as needed.

There are several things to look out for when evaluating policies. For instance, many employees require online tools that enhance and support remote work. As such, communication policies will need to be updated.

Policies should also state the expected goals and objectives for employees working from home. Tell employees when they need to check in and, if so, how. Being upfront about expectations can help employees understand priorities and requirements. It also shows that the organization is aware of changing times and is pivoting when needed. When employees have clear direction from management, they can easily adjust and meet expectations.

5. Be flexible

Times are different. Many employees find it difficult to transition through the pandemic. Everything is changing before our very eyes. It pays to remain flexible, especially in these tough times.

This is especially true with remote teams. You cannot gauge how your employees feel through a computer screen or over email. Many are struggling to cope with rising levels of stress and anxiety, and some may be close to burnout.

Be flexible with your employees. If someone needs to talk, be open to a conversation or a phone call. If an employee struggles to meet a deadline, consider why and how you can help increase productivity. Whenever possible, remain flexible. Have flexibility in the way things are approached and how things are done. Some things do not need to be turned in this very minute. Other things can be done easily through email instead of a long video conference.

Look at things from a different perspective and be flexible.

6. Educate and invest in training

Since the beginning of the pandemic, there have been many online courses, webinars, and talks on coping with mental health issues. The pandemic is causing more stress, anxiety, and other critical mental health issues than we can imagine. Educating your employees and management about prevailing mental health issues is critical today.

While we may think that everyone should be aware of mental health issues, many are not. Investing in education and training to cope with mental health issues can go a long way. Education in this area can help employees detect signs of a breakdown or burnout in the early stages before it actually happens. Education can also provide methods and means of coping with mental health issues should they arise.

7. Show empathy

The health and well-being of your employees should be your priority in these uncertain times. A great leader and manager can empathize with employees regardless of title or status. Encouraging compassion toward one another begins from the top down.

A caring and empathetic work culture encourages stronger work relationships within the organization. It also prioritizes employees’ well-being and shows that you are genuinely concerned. Empathy toward employees fosters healthy work relationships and encourages optimal productivity.

First, try to understand the demands pulling them in different directions. Consider the various factors employees face during their workday, whether from home or in the office. No two employees are alike, and not all employees deal with the same problems or concerns.

Everyone is dealing with some struggle that we might not be aware of. Seeing things from a different perspective and considering all factors can help encourage empathy among employees and managers. Be kind when dealing with employees who are showing signs of stress or depression. Listen while they speak. Show concern by asking how they are coping.

A Healthy Workforce is a Productive Workforce

No one knows what the future holds. We cannot predict how the pandemic will shape the workplace in the next six months, nor can we be certain how even the strongest employees will cope with the continued stress and pressure from every area of their lives.

We can prioritize the health and well-being of our employees. Ensuring everyone is healthy and thriving in these uncertain times can help provide a better work-life balance, encourage better working relationships, and ensure that your organization thrives in a volatile market.

Kindness goes a long way. Helping your employees cope with mental health issues during the pandemic is a top priority today. Looking out for and taking care of every employee is necessary. Only then can we be certain that businesses will continue to survive and thrive in today’s COVID-19 workplace?


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