Making Employee Mental Health a Priority


Supporting Your Team Through a Mental Health Crisis

A majority of US adults say the stress and worry of the coronavirus epidemic has negatively impacted their mental health. Fifty three percent report a negative impact, according to a poll published on July 27. This is the highest number since the Kaiser Family Foundation began to conduct the regular survey in March - and the first time more than half of the respondents reported adverse consequences to their mental health.  

Signs of alarm had already started to appear. In May, The Washington Post published a long report with the headline:”

“The coronavirus pandemic is pushing America into a mental health crisis.” 

The Post article noted that experts warn that the result of the crisis will be increases in depression, substance abuse, post-traumatic stress disorder and suicide.

Inevitably, for many, the mental health crisis is exacerbated by issues created by the huge changes to working practices, which are impacting people’s job effectiveness and productivity.

Business-to-business ratings firm Clutch surveyed more than 300 workers earlier this year to assess the health impact of the pandemic. It reported that 39% of respondents felt less productive due to the sweeping changes to the working world. In particular, remote working is causing great stress:

  • Fear of losing the job, compounded by the lack of information and connection.
  • Feeling disengaged and isolated from the rest of the team.
  • Struggling with inadequate IT and the lack of an effective home working space.
  • Balancing childcare with a focus on work priorities.
  • Unrealistic expectations from bosses that productivity will be as it was when the team was in the office.

To balance the increasing anxieties suffered by remote workers, the Clutch survey noted that more than half were receiving additional mental and emotional support from their company.

So, what can you, as an employer, do to effectively support your employees during this incredibly difficult period?

The following is taken from action steps recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in its guide, ‘Mental Health in the Workplace

  • Make mental health assessment tools available.
  • Offer free or subsidized lifestyle coaching, counseling and self-management programs.
  • Make available materials to ALL employees that help understand the early signs of poor mental health and opportunities for treatment.
  • Host seminars and workshops, virtually if necessary, that address depression and stress management techniques.
  • Provide managers with training to help them recognize the symptoms of stress and depression in team members.
  • Give employees opportunities to participate in decisions about the issues that most create job stress.

The CDC also publishes guidance for employees, with tips on how to develop their own strategies to build resilience and manage job stress. Much of the CDC’s advice for employees focuses on increasing communication and building connections with others and increasing your sense of control by establishing a daily routine.

This all leads to questions about how employee engagement has changed and how it should work in the COVID-19 era.

Stay tuned – this Blog is taking a look at that topic in the very near future.


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