As we enter spring, the idea of emerging from our year of hibernation is becoming a reality. More individuals are getting vaccinated and children are headed back to school. Even still, new research finds adults reporting their highest stress levels since the crisis began early last year.
Nearly one-third of Americans have reported symptoms of anxiety and depression in the past year, a 200% jump from what was reported before the pandemic. Sejal Hathi, a doctor at Massachusetts General Hospital, said the growing mental health crisis is due to the direct viral effects of COVID-19 and the mass trauma the pandemic has inflicted.
With this in mind, organizations need to focus on a central question: how can they strategically mold their culture to help employees navigate these mental health challenges? Healing from a year like we’ve had takes time, and organizations need to build a plan to support both their employees and the business goals.
Here is what mental health experts recommend.
Protect mental health
During these challenging times, organizations must make an effort to prevent exposure to undue stress and situations that could cause employees’ mental distress. They should consider offering employees flexible work hours along with the ability to take a mental health day off.
HR departments should ensure that mental health services are included in their benefit plan at an affordable rate. Many with treatable conditions struggle to find affordable, high-quality care.
Consider different employee needs
Remember, not everyone has the same needs. There are now five generations of employees in the workforce. Whether it's Gen Z entering the workforce or baby boomers delaying retirement due to the economic fallout of the COVID-19 crisis, we all have unique needs. Make sure benefits and wellness programs accommodate a multi-generational workforce.
The stigma with openly discussing mental health challenges in the workplace remains. The only way organizations can reduce the stigma is through vocal and robust leadership. Leaders can start by sharing their experiences with challenges such as burnout. They should model self-care and setting boundaries to make it safer for others to do the same.
Many organizations have physical health initiatives, such as running competitions. Make sure there are also initiatives to promote emotional wellness, such as meditation clinics or yoga.
Make your employees are aware of available mental health resources and encourage them to use them. Qualtrics found that almost 46% of all workers said their company had not proactively shared available mental health resources.
A recent Harvard Business Review report notes that employees who feel their managers are not good at communicating are 23% more likely than others to experience mental health challenges. Leaders should keep their team informed about changes, updates, and progress.
And remember that each person's situation may evolve. Some people may choose to put their children in school, and others may want to continue to home school. Checking in with employees is critical to building relationships and adjusting projects and processes as needed. It’s about providing flexibility while ensuring the critical work gets done.
Basecamp CEO Jason Fried recently announced that employees with any caretaking responsibilities could set their own schedules, even if that means working fewer hours.
Can the workplace be a source of positivity that energizes and fulfills employees to help them show up as the best version of themselves? When leaders bring empathy, hope, trust, and compassion to their organizations, work becomes a positivity experience instead of one filled with anxiety.
One of the most effective tools to create positivity, belonging, and purpose is through tools such as Workhuman® Social Recognition®. The science tells us that organizations that support Social Recognition:
- Align people and culture to purpose
- Reduce voluntary turnover
- Increase engagement
- Boost employee happiness
Measure and adjust
Ensuring people are doing well does not need to be complicated. It can be handled through a simple pulse survey done regularly to understand employees' primary stressors and needs. This enables leaders to build and adjust employee programs that enhance health and well-being support. Moodtracker® is a free, advanced pulse survey tool built by data scientists at Workhuman, making it fast and easy to get to the heart of employee issues.
Employees are going to need the time to adjust once we emerge from the COVD-19 crisis. Organizations need to meet employees where they are and provide an environment of support and compassion. To survive and thrive, employees must become the organizations’ center.
About the AuthorMore Content by Lynne Levy