One topic that is top of mind right now is mental health. There have been countless headlines examining some component of how COVID-19 is impacting our lives in ways beyond just the disease, not the least of which is how it is impacting our mental health due to the societal changes it caused.
One major impact was the increase in the percentage of employees working from home. However, employees’ working remotely means everyone has fewer interpersonal interactions; we may be spending more time than ever talking with our colleagues on videoconferencing software, but many are spending less time than ever in others’ company, both at work and outside of work.
Spending less time around others, especially the people we care about, can have a significant impact on mental health.
Helping Employees with Mental Health: How Can Employers Do Better?
Thankfully, employers have been aware of this since the beginning of the pandemic, and many have taken steps to mitigate these issues. However, it’s important to realize that despite our efforts, most stressors haven’t been eliminated. In fact, many employees have more stresses than ever. Besides the obvious job stresses, many now also have caregiving responsibilities, such as:
- Caring for a child who cannot yet return to school or day care
- Caring for someone who contracted COVID
- Allowing adult children back into the home after job loss due to the economic downturn COVID caused
Caregiving responsibilities are much more demanding than most people realize, and employees may have taken on more work when others were let go when the economy contracted.
On top of all that, there are the stresses of being in the midst of a pandemic and worrying about your own safety and that of those you care about. This alone can cause a great deal of stress and anxiety for people—feelings that no employer can eliminate, even with the best of efforts to ensure the workplace is as safe as it can be.
Employers need to be cognizant of these ongoing challenges and continue to take steps to help employees navigate change in the coming months. Here are some ideas to consider:
- If you haven’t already done so, consider implementing an employee assistance program (EAP) or some other form of free access to therapy or similar programs.
- Consider improving caregiving benefits here and here for more information and ideas.)
- Remember that stresses can come from multiple sources. Consider providing benefits aimed at helping with various types of stress, such as financial well-being benefits and physical and mental well-being programs.
- Assess workloads to proactively look for employees who have too much on their plates, and do something about it before burnout becomes a problem.
- Consider paying or reimbursing employees for apps that help manage stress. Apps for meditation, sleep tracking, and exercise are examples.
- Provide research and information to employees about what resources are publicly available to them.
What else is your organization planning to do in the coming months to help employees manage their mental health?