In a poll conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation, half of the people polled reported being worried about being laid off, and 45% concerned about a loss in income due to reduced hours or workplace closures.
Employees and managers alike are reporting a decrease in mental health due to more anxiety and stress, and worrying about losing their job. In a study done by Qualtrics, 2 out of 5 people stated their mental health has declined since the outbreak.
While nurses and first-responders attend to the physical symptoms of COVID-19, managers can attend to the mental effects on employees. Managers have the power to make a positive impact on their employees’ mental health by how they respond during this time. Everyone responds differently to stress and anxiety. Managers need to know what to look for to determine if an employee needs help. Here are some common signs of a change in a person's mental health:
- Changes in physical appearance
- Loss of productivity
- Negative demeanor
- Changes in eating or sleeping patterns
- Mood swings
- Changes in behavior
During this unique time when most people are working from home, it may be difficult to recognize some of these signs in your employees over a virtual meeting. A good place to start would be checking in with your employees about how they are doing. 41% of employees want managers to proactively ask how they are feeling.
Here are some other ways as a manager you can help promote positive mental health for your employees:
1. Listen to employee concerns
Listening is important in any relationship. Being a good listener is also an important quality to have in a manager. Show your employees you are available by sharing specific blocks in your calendar dedicated to open office hours where employees can voice how they are doing.
Try not to give advice, just listen and share if you can relate to what they are going through. Empathy and transparency helps to establish trust and has a positive impact on mental health. If they don’t feel comfortable talking to leadership, point them in the direction of a professional counselor or a peer.
2. Discuss mental health initiatives with employees
Mental health is a heavy topic to bring up. People may not feel comfortable talking about emotions. Others may be afraid to admit they are struggling or have a hard time asking for help. Start the conversation by communicating it’s okay to admit weakness and ask for help.
Managers can start the conversation by educating employees on mental health issues. Create specific programming to build awareness of the issue. Ask employees what they need right now and let them know it’s okay to be honest.
3. Add additional mental health benefits
Several companies are addressing the impact COVID-19 has made on employee mental health by increasing health benefits such as counseling sessions, apps, and other resources to help employees.
PWC introduced wellness coaches that are available for employees to talk to. Target is offering its employees online resources to support emotional and physical health, including apps that help with sleep and exercise.
Evaluate your employee health benefits and see where you can offer additional resources and support. These benefits don’t have to be expensive. Self-care webinars and zoom happy hours can go a long way in boosting moods and mental health.
4. Over-communicate company plans during COVID-19
91% of people from the Qualtrics survey, said that they would prefer communication about the Coronavirus situation at least once a week. People want to know what is going on and what it means for them.
Share regular updates about the state of the business and COVID-19 related changes. Be transparent about how things are going and what the organization foresees for the future. Of the employees that received communication from their companies regarding the outbreak, 68% said they felt more confident in the actions they can take for their well-being.
5. Create consistency within work life
In times of crisis, consistency is needed. People want to hear from the top leaders of the organization on a consistent basis. They also want clear expectations from their manager. In the survey, those that knew what was expected of them, were 30% more likely to be productive since the stay-at-home orders started. Consistency and clear expectations leads to higher productivity levels.
Help employees to create consistency for themselves by establishing new routines for working from home and self-care. Communicate constantly with resources to support positive mental health, updates, and expectations. And try to create consistency in your interactions with your employees as much as possible. We know you're trying to keep your team productive, but we believe you should be on the lookout for their health and well being too.
6. Provide resources about mental health to your employees
45% of workers say their company is not being proactive in providing mental health resources. People will feel more equipped to take care of themselves and feel that their manager cares about their well being if they connect them to available resources.
Use mental health month as a reason to focus on the issue and share resources with employees. We’ve put together a list of websites and information to help you get started:
• How to Form a Mental Health Employee Resource Group
• CDC: How to Cope with Job Stress for Employees
• The National Safety Council
• Mental Health Month Guide for Employers
• World Health Organization
• Mind Share Partners: Workplace Mental Health Resources
• Mental Health America
• Mental Health At Work
Managers Can Lead the Way
Maintaining a positive mindset is critical to get through this crisis. Managers have an opportunity to lead the way for their employees through initiating discussion and education around mental health. Arming employees with the right information will help to decrease the stigma and open up the path for people to get the help they need. Let’s not let Coronavirus impact mental health in addition to physical health.