Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve heard a lot about protecting our physical health with increased hand washing, social distancing, wearing masks, and staying home if we’re sick. But what about mental health? The pandemic has required all of us to adapt to a new way of life. We have adjusted to working and learning remotely, going out less, and maintaining greater physical separation from others. Regardless of any pre-existing mental health conditions, these changes and the increased isolation we are experiencing are bound to cause unease, anxiety, loneliness, and uncertainty in us all.
As we are adapting our workplaces for greater distancing using partitions, staggered work schedules, or other tools, we need to consider the effects all of this change is having on our employees’ mental health. Here are a few ideas for promoting good mental health in your workplace during this time.
Lead With a Focus On Well-Being
Make sure employees know that their safety and health come first. As important as it is to keep your business running, you can’t do it without your employees, so their physical and mental health and well-being should be top priority. Employees need to hear this message from every level of management, so make sure all of your leadership communicates this and expresses genuine concern. If employees hear inconsistent messaging, it will inevitably damage the morale, engagement, and culture of your workplace.
Uncertainty increases stress and anxiety, and COVID-19 has brought a lot of uncertainty with it. Open, clear communication can help allay your employees’ fears. Communicate changes to your workplace or business operations as quickly and clearly as possible. Be reassuring when you discuss these changes, conveying job security as much as you can and ensuring that employees understand what support options are available to them (sick leave or other PTO, mental health resources, etc).
Some of your employees’ added stress during this time comes from trying to juggle their jobs with a lack of childcare, caring for sick loved ones, or even recovering from sickness themselves. Recognize that every employee will have different circumstances and needs during this time and try to be as flexible as possible. Offering options to work fewer or more flexible hours or to work remotely as needed is a good place to start. Showing employees that you see their needs and have options available will help to ease their anxiety.
Foster Openness and Transparency
Mental health has long been a taboo subject in society, especially in the workplace. Normalize the discussion of mental health by checking in with employees regularly and encouraging them to share questions, concerns, and comments, whether it’s in a public discussion or a private meeting. Be transparent about your own mental health when appropriate as well. If you personally struggle with anxiety, depression, or another mental health issue, don’t hide that from your staff - share your experience with them. This will make you a more authentic leader and will encourage others to be more open about how they are feeling.
Encourage Employees to Stay Active
Staying active is an important part of maintaining good mental health, as exercise can boost mood and help relieve stress and anxiety. Remind employees that as long as they maintain proper distance from others (at least 6ft), it is completely safe to go for a walk, hike, jog, or bike ride. Getting some fresh air adds to the mood-elevating properties of exercise as well, so encourage employees to take advantage of the summer sunshine and get outside.
Offer Stress and Time Management Resources
Whether it’s a meditation app or lessons to improve stress or time management skills, help employees know where to find the resources they need to stay healthy. If your company doesn’t have its own resources in-house, consider compiling a list of helpful websites and free apps to distribute to employees and make it a habit to communicate clearly and often about what resources are available. A few places to find free resources are:
Keep Employees Connected
In your workspace you likely have extra separation in place right now to keep people properly distanced and slow the spread of COVID-19. Whether you have employees spread further apart in the office or are using partitions or room dividers to keep people separated, make sure employees have opportunities to connect. If some of your staff are still working remotely, keep remote and in-office employees connected to each other by providing online communication channels (like instant messaging, Slack or another app) to discuss managing stress, maintaining a healthy work/life balance, sharing healthy recipes, etc. This water cooler conversation provides connection, reduces feelings of stress and isolation, and is an important part of maintaining a sense of teamwork and camaraderie.
Implementing some or all of these ideas will help you and your employees maintain good mental health both during the COVID-19 pandemic and in the future.
If your workplace is in need of room dividers, cubicles, or other methods to maintain safe distance and keep employees healthy, Versare has you covered. Shop our online store here or give us a call at 800-830-0210.