The year 2020 with no doubt has been one of the most uncertain periods in recent memory. A majority of countries are facing a second wave of the COVID-19 virus. It has created even further anxiety due to uncertainty – for everyone. Now more than ever there will be intensified mental health challenges in the workplace.
In this era of anxiety, mental health is taking a toll on most teams. Office workers now struggle with the issue of either adapting to long-term remote working or whether to comfortably return to office despite the surging COVID 19 cases or both.
Leading organizations are stepping up, focusing on a central question: How to Strategically Invest in Mental Health. Solutions have varied from providing mental health material & resources, training managers to identify those with challenges, also reworking the office culture towards helping employees navigate, and remain productive.
Based on our observations, here are some tangible ways you can help your employees moving forward as an employer:
Equip employees with resources around mental health by developing internal initiatives and programs. One such way would be to encourage employees to reach out to their co-workers who appear to be in emotional distress. In this remote working era, companies can create buddy systems that encourage team members to touch base with each other.
To support such an idea, companies can create and share simple 5-minute videos that educate, empower and encourage employees on how to identify & help someone who is in distress.
Finally, companies can hold seminars around mental resilience at the workplace. For instance, Nairobi Garage is organizing a webinar in partnership with Inuka.Io, a social enterprise on a mission to make well being accessible to everyone. The session will be sharing strategic ways people can develop resilience amidst adversities.
It is true that some people are very resilient and will need little support when things are not going well, while others will need your support and caring even during good times.
Yet there is a tendency in management to seek a one-size-fits-all solution, but the reality is that there are systematic differences in the way people act, think and feel.
Managers need to understand that every employee is different. Being a good manager is to a great degree being able to decode what makes each of your employees unique and how to manage this uniqueness.
Therefore, companies should provide opportunities for managers to attend relevant training to support staff living with mental health problems and the well-being of all staff.
“Educate employees about mental health resources to avoid burnout, mental breakdowns and reduce suicide risk in the workplace.”
With a majority, if not all of the employees working from home this year, many are facing a work-life integration challenge. Employees are finding themselves working from the time they get up into the night which is not healthy at all. Maintaining work-life integration helps reduce stress and helps prevent burnout in the workplace.
As an employer, you can encourage your teams to take breaks by stepping away from the desk. They can exercise, medidate, and take a snack. Also, discourage scheduling of back to back meetings that will force them to be at the desks for an extended period of time.
Also, offering your employees with a half-day or once weekday off can provide better work-life integration. It may provide them with an opportunity to attend medical appointments – which are important especially for those coping with mental illness.
It is important to have policies in the workplace as they stipulate what is expected or not expected of the teams. Without proper mental health policies in place, your company is missing out on a huge opportunity.
Creating a mental health policy lets everyone know that it is an important aspect that the company takes seriously. It also helps employees know what to do in the event of a challenge that they are unable to cope with.
There are resources that can help your company create and implement a mental health policy. In 2005, WHO published the Mental Health Policies & Programmes in the Workplace. More recently, in 2019, the CDC also published guidelines on Mental Health at the Workplace sharing mental health issues that affect businesses and employees and how employers can promote awareness about mental health.
Employers can look out for their employees’ mental health by encouraging participation in free and anonymous online screenings.
Most countries observe a Depression Screening day in the month of October. Following this or creating the company’s own observation day or month is an excellent opportunity for employers to begin to identify and address mental health issues in the workplace.
Now, more than ever, it’s critical to educate employees about mental health resources to avoid burnout, mental breakdowns and reduce suicide risk.
Large companies use surveys to gauge employees’ attitudes to see how they experience their work and jobs. However, few are aware of just how important engagement is as a preventive factor of poor health issues. Normalize asking questions that assess mental health within the surveys
Factors such as reliance on technology, and working from home – both accelerated by COVID-19 – have created barriers to personal connection in the workplace. Loneliness is quickly gaining attention as a serious issue especially for employees who live alone, or are already facing mental health challenges.
Organizations have to find ways to employ emotional intelligence and relational well-being across the entire team helping individuals relate to their challenges, successes, and the people around them.
Executive leaders and managers must understand how to effectively use communication to engage employees and understand the fact that this pandemic will cause inevitable interruptions to workflow as employees deal with personal challenges
Gen-Z is new to the workforce while Millennials are maturing in their careers, and Gen X are assuming mid-level to top leadership roles. Human resource management is today faced with the challenge of figuring out how to accommodate a multi-generational workforce, including their mental health needs.
Each of these generations brings different stressors, needs, and preferences for workplace resources. in turn, this has seen leaders in various organizations shift their benefits, and wellness programs to build a culture that accommodates the diverse ideas and needs for this workforce.
Companies who invest in the mental health of their people and foster an open dialogue about mental health issues will also be creating a positive workplace and a place where people want to work. It’s a win-win.