4 ways to support employee mental health post-COVID. Mental health issues are on the rise in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. What can employers do to support struggling employees?
A major issue emerging from the COVID pandemic is the long-term effect on mental health.
Despite a return to normalcy (endangered now by the new Delta variant), more and more employees are reporting mental health challenges as a result of the pandemic. One in four U.S. adults report symptoms of anxiety or depressive disorders, according to data from the Kaiser Family Foundation. And additional data from KFF has linked pandemic-related stress to problems sleeping and eating as well as increased alcohol and substance use.
Employees need robust mental health support in a post-COVID workplace. Luckily: Employers are listening. A solid 41% of companies surveyed plan to expand mental health support in 2021, according to Care.com’s The Future of Benefits report. Here are 4 strategies for supporting employee mental health through the end of the pandemic and into a post-COVID world.
1. Give mental health support the significance it deserves.
In order for mental health to reach the same significance in the workplace as physical health, it needs to be incorporated into the policies and training. In a post-COVID world, just as managers will be equipped to handle social distancing or mask guidelines, they ought to also be educated on how to best support mental health. This might include knowing how to spot signs of increasing mental illness, or simply knowing what resources to offer to struggling employees.
2. Recognize mental health days as sick days and don’t penalize employees for taking them.
One of the best ways to support mental health is to break the stigma surrounding it. If an employee needs a sick day because of the flu or injury, a team will do their best to accommodate. However the same can’t always be said for time off related to mental health. Create a culture of trust by not only allowing mental health sick days but encouraging employees to take them when they are necessary. Often, a day or two at home goes a long way in helping struggling employees feel rested and focused. Plus, these policies let employees know they won’t be penalized for struggling.
3. Foster transparency in your organization in order to make the work your employees do feel meaningful.
It can be draining for an employee when they don’t see the purpose behind their work. As company leadership, it’s critical to communicate your vision and goals to the whole team. When an employee can understand why their work matters, it gives them so much more motivation to get out of bed every morning. In fact, some researchers claim that meaningfulness is the most important factor of work for employees, even more than pay or mobility. As such, being a transparent employer can go a long way to improving the mental health of your employees.
4. Be flexible and patient with your team as it continues to grow.
The pandemic affected many of our lives logistically. People moved. Companies moved. Now, as employees return to the office, it might not be so simple to get things back the way they were. The thought of in-person work might be overwhelming for some and exciting for others. Employers must recognize that many people experienced the pandemic differently. Their mental and physical needs will be different. As we settle back in, allowing time and space for the folks who are slower to adjust is critical. Mental health support is not one-size fits all and an individual approach can go a long way.
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