Mental health in the workplace has always been a concern, however now we’re reaching an inflection point, where this problem has aggravated immensely. The COVID-19 pandemic has had a profound impact on the mental health of the workforces around the globe. As we deal with social isolation, anxiety associated with elevated uncertainty and changing dynamics at work, engaging employees around mental health can be a challenge. May being the Mental Health Awareness Month is a great opportunity to talk about this pressing issue, which otherwise gets ignored often.
Read on to better understand and later adopt the best strategies to support employee mental health at work.
What is mental health
The psychological and emotional well-being of an individual defines their mental health status. It impacts the ability to cope with the stress of everyday life, affects how we think, act and feel. It also helps determine how we relate to others, and make choices. Many factors contribute to mental health problems – COVID-19 and the changes it has brought at work, being the most common in the present times.
Here are some early warning signs (Please note: Some of these signs could also be an indication of an underlying medical condition, like vitamin deficiency. Thus, it is advised to connect with an expert before declaring that someone is dealing with mental health issues):
- Disrupted sleeping patterns
- Willingness to stay away from people and usual activities
- Low energy levels
- Feeling of helplessness or hopelessness
- Sudden mood swings
- Difficulty in performing daily tasks like official work, household chores, etc.
Fact: May has been observed as the Mental Health Awareness month since 1949. The States in 1949 and was started by the Mental Health America Organization.
Mental health in the workplace
In a fast moving and competitive work environment, it is common to experience heightened levels of anxiety and stress. Depending on the work responsibilities, professional and personal life circumstances, and how deeply an individual thinks and ultimately reacts to change and circumstances, they feel negatively about, their mental health gets impacted chronically or acutely.
Let’s look at how leaders and HRs of a company can navigate their workforce in procuring a better mental health, during the times of COVID-19 and beyond.
Caring for employee mental health during COVID-19
We cannot recall any other period as uncertain as the current one, not at least in the past couple of decades. The shift to remote-hybrid-remote since 2020 has been abrupt and frequent. The consequences of this have been adapting to what we never thought of getting accustomed to. Back-to-back online meetings, way too many work calls, working in isolation, and unclear working hours are just to name a few. While workplaces have lost the ‘human element’, the employees find themselves daily juggling between professional and personal commitments. It is a leader’s role, and obligation, more than ever now, to demonstrate compassion and make time for their teams in the time of need. This will strengthen the team for now and long into the future.
The facts shown above highlight three things:
- How most employees around the world have reacted to the change (not positive)
- How they fear and not like working or being alone
- WFH has hit women harder than men
Only a leader and HR-led mental health response can help substantially in the present scenario.
Following are some tips on caring for employees’ Mental Health
Form a trauma-informed workplace
The pandemic has impacted the mental health of most people deeply. The same stands true for employed individuals. In response, it becomes essential for companies to build trauma-informed workplaces that are well-equipped to address the workplace stress. It makes sense to rework on the sources, partnerships and employee engagement and wellness measures and activities.
Some organisations are monitoring every move of employees working from home via their laptops which increases the stress for employees. It is causing ‘Double-burden syndrome’ in individuals. Letting the employees know that they are being watched with short morning and evening update meetings is okay but keeping a track of productivity is not the need of hour, listening and being there for them is.
Encourage connection and relational well-being
Working on employees’ happiness quotient and relational wellbeing can help improve mental health in the workplace as the same helps them relate and work on challenges, and successes of people around, and the ones they work with. Personal connection and human touch is long lost due to high reliance on technology, thereby amplifying the feeling of loneliness in people. HR leaders and managers must learn to communicate with empathy and accept the fact that the workflow interruptions would be inevitable given that personal challenges are rising.
3 Timeless tips to support employee mental health at work
Spread awareness about mental-health rights at work amongst employees
The Mental Healthcare act of 2017 gives employees and individuals suffering from mental health the right to seek help, and make decisions regarding their healthcare, themselves. At workplaces and otherwise, they must be treated with equality, dignity and protected from inhumane, cruel and demeaning treatment. If the employee chooses to seek help from a professional through the workplace, the status must remain confidential.
Arrange sessions with mental health experts
Live webinars with dedicated Q&A slots with mental health experts can be a great way to help employees deal with pandemic fatigue. These webinars can cover a range of things:
- Mental health & wellness strategies to manage increased mental pressure associated with the pandemic,
- Mindfulness, relaxation & breathing techniques to regain sense of control in daily life
- Coping strategies & ways to overcome collective fatigue and distress
Understand multi-generational workforce needs
The five generations at work differ from each other vastly. While Gen Z is new to work, Gen X is expecting a leadership role, millennials are busy maturing their careers and boomers postponing their retirement. These different stages bring different mental health issues for each. Hence, HR leaders must focus on building a culture that welcomes different ideas, needs and shift their benefits and wellness program accordingly.
How can an HR software help in managing employee happiness quotient
Here’s how HROne HR software can help. We can firmly speak in this context for us. Below is a step-by-step process to manage and improve employee mental health in the workplace.
Step 1- Create Employee mental health policy wherein you can list all the resources you provide, measures you take, and environment and conduct you don’t tolerate. Be open to editing it as per the new circumstances
Step 2- Provide mental health leaves and let employees use them when the need arises. Covid Care Leave (14 Days), Covid Family Care Leave (5 Days), Covid Hospitalisation Leave (28 Days), Covid vaccination Leave (Two half day leaves) can also be created.
Step 3- Use Moodbot to understand what is impacting their feelings
Step 4-Use HR posts to inform everyone about organisational achievements, news and post motivational and happy images, videos from CXOs and posts. Vaccination certificates or posts for emergent help required can also be created.
Step 5- Check on employee health using a pulse survey, analyse results to see what is impacting them emotionally, physically or mentally
Step 6- Form a Covid Help Community wherein every employee can mark themselves or people they know for plasma donation, contacts for oxygen cylinder and other resources
Step 7- Extend support to employees dealing with mental health issues by removing the stigma around it and making free counseling/ therapy sessions available to those in need
Acknowledging and preserving mental health ahead
While the fight with COVID for survival has been apparent, what it made everyone fight through on the inside remained overshadowed. At some point of time, most employed and unemployed individuals, business owners faced challenges in mental health. Clearly, for long-term sustainability changing the organisational fabric is now a mandate. To mitigate, minimise mental health issues and be more than ready for the ‘next normal’ we must examine our participation as a leader, HR or manager in an organisation. Keep assessing the problems and changes, updating the ways to cope and be open to extend mental health support.