How To Prevent Mental Health Issues In The COVID Workplace

Written by: Amor Traceski  

How is employee morale in your company? How have your employees been dealing with the changes you’ve had  to make to the work environment? How have they been personally impacted by the pandemic? These are  questions that you, as an employer, hopefully know the answers to. 

The increase of COVID-related mental health cases in the workplace has been alarming. Because businesses have  had to make drastic changes to operations, employees have had to quickly adapt without being given much  choice. Between those changes, constant social media rants, negative news, social distancing policies and  limitations for public outings, among others, it’s no wonder fatigue, stress and anxiety levels are running high. 

Here are some recommendations to get a better pulse on your team’s morale and promote mental health in the  workplace without being overly invasive: 

  • Show empathy. Understand that employees are likely feeling overwhelmed and anxious about circumstances related to the virus. Promote an open-door policy to show you care about their well-being.
  • Promote good mental (and physical) health in the workplace. Whether they work remotely or on company premises, there are ways for your employees to participate in activities, like yoga, meditation, and mindfulness, all of which develop and strengthen mental and physical health. 
  • Schedule regular checkins. Make yourself available to talk with your employees about their fears and anxieties. Address any negative emotions they are demonstrating with compassion and understanding.  •
  • Have an EAP (Employee Assistance Program) with behavioral support resources and distribute their information to the team. Note: Many times, employees do not want anyone in their company to know they availed of EAP services, so don’t push them about using the EAP; just gently remind them it’s available.
  • Address leave policies to encourage employees to take time off when sick and to utilize vacation time, when they feel it’s necessary. 
  • Develop a plan to respond to employees with caregiving responsibilities that may interfere with the employee’s ability to work. 
  • Make reasonable accommodations when possible. If an employee informs you that they have anxiety,  depression, or another mental health condition, and they request an accommodation, you should begin the interactive process to determine what reasonable accommodation(s) you can provide, in accordance with the  Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Click on this link for more in-depth information: Small Employers and  Reasonable Accommodation | U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (eeoc.gov) 
  • Conduct a company-wide survey of employee morale (on-site or remotely). Using the following questions will uncover the kind of meaningful engagement that can improve employee performance during these  challenging COVID times: 
  1. Do you believe the company has your best interests in mind when making business decisions? 
  2. Are you satisfied with the way your company has managed both its business and people during this time?
  3. Has your company maintained adequate communication with all of its employees?
  4. Have you continued to collaborate with your team during this time? 
  5. Does your team inspire you to do your best work? 
  6. Does your team help you to complete your work?
  7. Do you have the appropriate amount of information to make correct decisions about your work?
  8. When something unexpected comes up in your work, do you usually know whom to ask for help?
  9. Do you have a good understanding of your company’s informal structures and processes?
  • For remote workers: 

o Because working remotely can cause people to feel isolated, routinely checking in on your remote team is critical. Recognize the impact of isolation and loneliness, which can lead to depression and other mental health issues. Be aware of significant changes in your team member’s personality or work product when you check-in.  

o Stay connected with communication and meeting tools. Use Zoom, FaceTime, Google Hangouts,  Skype, GoToMeeting and other virtual meeting options with video, for regular check-ins and to allow  teams to connect with one another “face-to-face.” 

Stress and other mental health issues may give rise to workers’ compensation claims, as the benefits apply equally  to mental injuries and illnesses as they do to physical ailments. To prepare for this: 

  •  make sure you have in place protective measures, including a COVID response plan (sample attached COVID-19 Preparedness Plan template and instructions (mn.gov)), and 
  • remain adaptable and follow guidelines provided by federal, state and local authorities for establishing and  maintaining safe workplaces and workforces in our new normal.  

Your employees are your company’s greatest asset. Giving them the time, resources, and financial support to  improve and sustain their mental health will, ultimately, increase their productivity and morale and your business  will thrive as it moves forward post COVID-19; a win-win for all! 

About the author:

Amor Traceski

Amor Traceski is a Human Resources Consultant with over 20 years of experience in human resources management in various fields of industry.  She is also a motivational speaker, life coach and author of Been There, Done That: Practical Tips & Wisdom from Cancer Survivors for Cancer Patients.  

Learn more about Amor online at https://www.amortraceski.com/

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