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5 Ways to Support Employee Mental Health in Challenging Times

Author: Laura Morrison

A lot has happened in 2020. A lot is still happening.

For many communities, the second wave of COVID-19 is crashing down in full force and we are weeks away from the United States Presidential election. For many, the ongoing feelings of uncertainty and fear are overwhelming. 

In April, Mind Share Partners reported from a survey of almost 2000 employees that 42% of workers were experiencing a decline in their mental health since the onset of the pandemic. It’s been six months since then, and we can only imagine what the data would look like now. On top of COVID-19, we’ve seen the biggest protest movement ever, with over 26 million people in the United States alone taking to the streets since May 26th to advocate for racial justice. And this has not been unique to the United States; people around the globe have organized in over 80 countries in similar demonstrations. Now, with the impending election, anxieties are as high as ever.

So, how are you, a manager, supervisor, or employer, going to care for your employees through this time of global crisis? Here are some ways you can foster a supportive workplace:

Don’t make assumptions about what people need.

Different people need different things. People often need different things at different times. A customized approach based on employee feedback is your best route for implementing effective measures. Depending on your employees’ situations – single parents, caregivers, students, individuals living with disabilities, etc. – you will need flexibility in how you approach work accommodations. Check in regularly with the staff you manage, and use check-ins as a way to reiterate policies, practices, and resources regarding mental health. Normalizing these types of conversations will contribute to a healthier and more inclusive workplace. 

Sample check-in questions:

  • How often do you feel nervous at work?
  • Do you feel like you have the necessary tools to do your job properly?
  • What can we do to make you feel more confident and stable in your role here?
  • What does a supportive workplace look like to you?
  • What makes you feel happy at work?
  • You don’t seem yourself today, is everything okay?

Be honest and vulnerable about your own mental health.

October 10th is World Mental Health Day. Days like this can open the door for conversations you may not usually have at work. Use this as an opportunity to normalize conversations about mental health. The past several months have most likely caused everyone in your company some discomfort or distress. Using that shared experience as a jumping off point, you can open the door for future conversations about mental wellbeing. However, it’s hard to get people to share their thoughts, feelings, and concerns if they don’t see the people in positions of power being vulnerable. Being honest about your own struggles will allow employees to be more forthcoming about their mental health challenges.These conversations cultivate trust and improve overall employee engagement.

Invest in a healthier workplace.

Prioritize mental health training for leaders and managers. In order to reduce stigma and build a culture of inclusivity, you have to spend time on education. That could look like virtual workshops, individual training programs, or education units – whatever works best for your community.

Speak often about the resources available to employees.

Make your team aware of your company’s policies and resources regarding mental health. Shame and stigma may prevent employees from searching for and using resources that may be available to them, so talk openly and regularly about the services your company offers. EY (formerly Ernst & Young), for example, uses employee champions, cross-country presentations, virtual events, and e-learning curriculums to reinforce their mental health goals for employees.

Include mental health in your DEI strategies.

It’s important to recognize the mental health component of wider equality initiatives. Having a mental health problem shouldn’t be an impediment to people joining or staying in your workplace. Ensure you are working towards a culture that values vulnerability, authenticity, and openness. For help designing, implementing or evaluating these strategies, book an expert session with us here

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