What managers and business leaders need to do to ensure employee mental well-being
Research shows that nearly 42% of employees around the world have suffered a decline in their mental health since the start of the global health crisis. Given that we are still struggling with the Covid-19 pandemic, as well as many societal and economic issues, that figure is not likely to have appreciably declined.
Many people have spoken about the short-term effects of the pandemic on mental health, but the long-term effects will likely be much greater. What can managers do to help their employees during this era of immense stress? In this article, I will offer several concrete suggestions for managers and business leaders to help their employees improve their mental health in these unprecedented and uncertain times.
Before the pandemic struck, many firms had begun to tackle mental health in the workplace (often as a consequence of pressure from their employees). It is time to redouble those efforts. The success of the vaccine rollout does not imply that employees will not have to tackle many painful transitions.
There will be new stressors, added safety concerns, as well as economic upheavals faced by employees going forward. Managers and leaders will have to develop solutions to help their employees overcome anxiety, burnout, depression, PTSD, and trauma.
The degree to which employees are affected by these mental health challenges will be determined by citizenship status, economic opportunity, job type, parenting and caregiving responsibilities, race, and many other factors.
Be vulnerable. A perhaps under-reported positive of the global health crisis is that it has allowed people to be honest about their vulnerabilities. We have all gone through some kind of mental health challenge as a result of the pandemic. Leaders are encouraged to match this by being open about their own mental health challenges so that their employees feel free to express their own vulnerabilities.
Be a Good Mental Health Role Model. You have to walk the talk and show your employees just what it means to practice mental health self-care. This is often challenging for managers and leaders because their job is about managing other people, and that often leads them to ignore their own needs.
Be a good role model and remember to take care of your mental health so that your employees have a reference point and feel they have permission to practice mental health self-care. Take walks to clear your head, attend LPC workshops, journal your feelings and mental health challenges, among other things.
Build a supportive culture through check-ins. Deliberately check-in with your direct employees to create a culture of checking-in. This is especially important at a time when people are working remotely and it’s harder to see if anyone is suffering from mental health problems.
Research says 38.2% of employees report that nobody from their company has asked them how they are doing during the pandemic. Those employees are 38% more likely to have experienced a decline in their mental health since the pandemic began.
Don’t just ask how your employees are, ask specific questions about their mental health. Give your employees the space to speak freely, without interrupting, judging them or even offering advice. You have to create a space where your employees feel unconditional positive regard.
You may not have the answers, but often, just listening is enough for employees to feel heard, appreciated and better.