Updated: Jun 15, 2020
By Taylor Weyeneth | DCI
Stress and unhealthy coping mechanisms affect employees’ moods, sleep patterns, attention spans, energy, and work ethic
Managers and company leaders can help mitigate mental health risks by facing their employees and destigmatizing the issues they are dealing with
CNN Business, May 18, 2020 - The Coronavirus has negatively impacted mental health for many, but high levels of stress have particularly targeted employees who are dealing with financial and professional hardship. Here is what managers and company leaders can do to help their employees:
1. Acknowledge that everyone is affected by the pandemic
"Acknowledge this is tough and [let people know] it's ok to say so," said Mary Kay O'Neill, a partner in health and benefits at Mercer Consulting. And do so not only in group discussions, but also in one-on-one conversations with team members. You also might consider having an office hour where anyone can call you if they need to.
2. Lead by example
Bosses can become more cognizant of how they are managing things in their own lives, then try to use what is working for them to help their employees. Be sure to empathize with what the employees are going through.
3. Notice uncharacteristic behaviors
Managers are responsible for noticing any sudden changes in their employees’ behavior and remember that there is always a root cause. Also, consider whether or not substance abuse might be an issue. The Kaiser Family Foundation found that 13% of Americans said they had increased their drinking or drug use in response to the stress over coronavirus and prescriptions are up for anti-anxiety and anti-depression drugs. That doesn't necessarily mean your employee can be an alcoholic, but the habit at the very least could jeopardize their physical health and their ability to concentrate and perform their job well.
4. Communicate about how employees can get help
The root cause of employee stress during the pandemic is often financial or legal. Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) provide free psychological counseling, identity theft assistance, and substance abuse help and wellness services such as meditation. Managers should always encourage team members to take care of themselves by taking breaks and using mental health services if they need it, stressing that there is no shame in doing so.
5. Recognize that returning to the office also poses health risks
Returning to the office will take a lot of mental energy. Managers will need to comply with new safety protocols such as temperature checks, social distancing, and being more mindful of touching surfaces and ensure that their employees are following these protocols as well.
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