Overview: The impact of COVID on mental health is profound and will be long lasting. Employee wellbeing is critical right now. We discuss how companies can step up to care for their employees.
Experts from around the globe warn of a significant rise in mental health issues, suicides, and substance abuse challenges wrought by everything COVID-related. Even after the pandemic is brought under control, the impact will likely be felt for years. A combination of the disease, its social consequences, and the economic fallout will continue to have a profound effect on mental health. This is why making health and wellbeing a focal point at your organization right now is paramount.
Delivering support to your people doesn’t have to be complicated or extravagant. In fact, it simply starts and ends by making their wellbeing a top priority.
Wellbeing is broad and all-encompassing term. From mental and physical health, to financial, social and career health, the wellbeing of your workforce is multifaceted. Over the course of the pandemic, our wellbeing has been tested and stretched to the limit. When an employer creates situations and opportunities that make all personnel feel valued and supported, unnecessary stress and anxiety decreases. People can then better withstand and become more resilient to the unexpected changes and uncertainty that may unfold each day.
Special attention must be provided to members of communities most impacted by COVID: black and Hispanic people, older adults and those workers at the lower end of the pay scale.
Tangible Ways to Support Your People
Here are some learnings & strategies that a number of my clients are using to support their workforce right now:
- Frequent Communication: Effective and personalized support starts with communication. It is vital to communicate regularly, even daily, with your people to see what they need. This then allows you to find out what specific & individualized services they may need. It also shows your concern. Note that when people feel supported and like they’re an integral part of the organization, they’re more likely to continue delivering their best work.
- Special Reimbursements: Reimburse employees for any lunch and coffee purchases made from local and independent small businesses to encourage community support throughout the pandemic.
- Targeted Trainings: Host frequent digital trainings and seminars aimed at current & ongoing circumstances. This can include increasing knowledge in areas such as staying productive while working remotely, building and maintaining online relationships, high impact stress management tools such as meditation, indoor bodyweight fitness/exercise routines, wellness, cooking & healthy eating, the importance of getting outdoors and of staying in touch with friends & family and whatever else might be relevant to your team.
- Boost Mental Health Offerings: Offer increased access to confidential mental health care options and send out weekly reminders of available services.
- Paid Sick Leave: Ensure paid sick leave for all of your workforce dealing with physical health issues to ensure they can take the time they need to take care of themselves as well as to avoid placing others at risk if they develop symptoms related to COVID.
- Flexible Time Off: Allow sick days to be used for ‘mental health’ days, days to attend to non-work priorities, or for simply taking a break.
- Employee Activity Clubs: One of the biggest impacts of the pandemic is social isolation. Social distancing, while necessary to slow the pandemic, has resulted in many being cut off from normal activities with their communities, friends and family. Businesses can help alleviate this by encouraging participation in existing employee activity clubs or the development of new ones for the virtual environment. Remember, the goal here is to create a sense of community, connection and fun. Examples include book clubs, movie clubs, walker tracking clubs, cooking/recipe clubs, parenting groups, virtual murder mysteries, beer & cheese tasting, team trivia and virtual game shows.
- Supply office equipment: Supply appropriate work from home tools such as ergonomic chairs, high quality headsets, monitors and any tools your team needs to work as if they were in an office environment.
- Emphasize Work-Life Balance: Work-life balance is one of the most important things leaders can do to help their teams not only stay fit & healthy but allow them the flexibility to deal with unexpected challenges or personal priorities such as family needs. Provide them with flexible hours so they can get done what they need to but still get their work done.
- Exercise Compassion: Your people have been through the wringer. Exercise extra patience and understanding. It simply doesn’t matter that they show up to a zoom meeting in casual clothes or are looking a little disheveled. Chances are they are dealing with some tough stuff.
The bottom line is that your workforce deserves all-encompassing wellbeing support.
Wellbeing programs are – now more than ever – an essential tool for sustaining a positive and thriving culture, encourages emotional and intellectual engagement and builds a more resilient, productive workforce.
As an employer or senior leader, it’s important to always remember: Your organization can make a remarkable impact on your employees’ quality of life…and by extension, that of their family.
With your support, your employees can achieve healthier levels of wellbeing and collectively, build a stronger healthier culture – even during a pandemic.