How to Support Mental Health at Work During These Precarious Times

| COVID-19, Employee Engagement
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This year has shown us just how important of a role employers play in supporting mental health at work and how doing so can empower happier, more satisfied, and more productive employees. In this guest post, Samantha Peters explains four ways businesses can support mental health in the workplace.

Now more than ever, supporting mental health at work is becoming a critical task for organizations around the world.

The current global health crisis has pushed more offices to shift to remote work than ever before. While it’s an arrangement that offers people flexibility, it’s not all roses. Working from home comes with its own set of challenges, especially now that there are so many economic, political, and social pressures coming at your team.

The sad reality is that remote work arrangements may make your employees feel isolated and disoriented, and, as corporate trainer and author David Maxfield says, “Out of sight can be out of mind … and leaders need to step up and become more effective.”

It’s your responsibility as a leader and as a part of the team to give your employees the support that they need.

Here are four ways to support mental health at work.

1. Have clear, consistent check-ins

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A simple “how are you?” can go a long way. Even if you’re not able to see each other on a daily basis, it’s important that you still make your team feel seen and remind them that they have a social support system. Establishing a strong support system within the workplace gives people a sense of security and a confidence boost.

It’s a good practice to set up regular check-in sessions, which could either be one-on-one calls or virtual team meetings. This way, your employees can expect a predictable schedule for a forum where they can have their concerns heard, consult with you, or just talk freely with each other.

However, scheduling these meetings too close together can become suffocating for your employees, too. They may feel micromanaged and it could even lead to Zoom fatigue, especially when these calls get dragged on for too long.

Video calls can also become stressful since the brain needs to work extra hard to read physical cues from others—not to mention the frozen screens and spotty internet many have to contend with.

So, discuss how often and when these check-in conversations should happen with your team.

2. Focus on outputs, not processes

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The pandemic has demanded recalibration and huge adjustments in daily activities. Your team may feel pressured to stick to their previous schedules, but that can cause them even more stress, and hinder productivity.

Remote workers are constantly juggling work and personal commitments throughout the day which is why you should trust and enable them to complete their work in ways that are the most productive and efficient for them.

“As a manager, you have to stop paying attention to the process and pay more attention to what things are getting done,” says Brian Kropp, VP of Research at Gartner.

You don’t have to know every single step in your employees’ work process—that will stress both you and them out.

However, it’s important that you:

  • Set objectives: Remote work could make employees feel unsure of what they need to focus on, so let them know what’s expected of them within established timeframes.
  • Rely on virtual tools: From virtual office tools like Tandem and Remotion that simulate office environments, to instant messaging apps like Slack and Microsoft Teams, you can choose which ones suit your needs and course your workflow through these tools.
  • Schedule a mutually agreeable time for collaborative work: You can’t expect everyone to be sitting in front of their computers for eight full hours. In reality, people aren’t even at their desks uninterrupted for this long when they’re in the office. Instead, think about finding an agreeable time for your employees to be online at the same time to work on team projects, and make sure to stick to the allotted time.

3. Provide easy access to mental health professionals

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Limited social interaction and staying at home for an unprecedented period of time definitely took a toll on people’s mental health. A study by The Lancet reveals that the mix of infection fears, frustration, boredom, inadequate supplies, inadequate information, and long periods of isolation and quarantines may even result in post-traumatic stress symptoms, confusion, and anger.

While it’s a harsh burden for people to take on, it has helped mental health issues be more openly talked about at work. And, as a leader, you have to champion the destigmatization of mental health conversations in the workplace. You can start by giving your team access to mental health professionals, be they counselors or life coaches.

ZenBusiness explains that starting a life coaching business has become popular during the pandemic, together with the telemedicine industry. In fact, recent studies show that about 91% of people who have tried virtual care would prefer to receive treatment online again in the future.

In order to make their services available online, counselors, coaches, and therapists have had to register their businesses with state and local agencies and get their certifications updated.

And if you’re hiring or referring any psychiatrist or psychologist, make sure that they’re certified by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology, Inc.

It’s important for you to check for these registration documents and certifications to ensure that you’re putting your valuable resources in legitimate and effective professional services.

4. Cultivate compassion and empathy

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According to a study by KFF, 53% of American adults are experiencing higher levels of stress and worry because of the recent health, social, and political crises. And, ultimately, everyone could do with a little bit more kindnes

You’ll be surprised at how much stronger a team can become when they learn to trust each other with their feelings and thoughts. This fosters a more communicative environment where employees can voice their concerns, which doesn’t just benefit them, but the business, too.

  • Be a more vulnerable leader with your staff: When you’re open about feeling stressed—or even uncertain at times—what happens is that you’re allowing your employees to do the same.
  • Invest in self-improvement training: Now may be the best time to bring in a professional to facilitate training that gives your employees a better and stronger sense of self. You can start by looking into our Emotional Intelligence Training session which develops self-awareness and social perception, and our Self-Discovery with Myers-Briggs Training to help you create a working environment that’s better suited to your team.
  • Allow moments for virtual social interactions: Remind your employees that it’s okay to still have a good time even when times are rough and precarious. It could be something as simple as watching a movie together or challenging each other in a few rounds of Code Break.

Employee mental health needs to be a priority for organizations under the best of circumstances. And in the midst of a global pandemic, this makes it all the more important.

By focusing on taking the steps to support the mental wellbeing of your staff, you’ll find yourself with a team full of happier, more motivated, and more productive employees.

Learn More About How Group Training Programs and Coaching Solutions Can Help Support Mental Health at Work.

For more information about how you can invest in your team’s mental wellbeing with group training programs or coaching solutions, reach out to our Employee Engagement Consultants.

Author Bio:

Samantha Peters — Organizational Consultant

Samantha Peters is a Chicago-based organizational consultant and blogger with an interest in using the digital world to improve company culture. Her new lockdown hobby is tending to her small garden, and she can always be found sipping on some green tea.


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