7 ways you can help your employees with their mental health during the pandemic
Anxiety increases during times of uncertainty, and 2020 is presenting us all with extended periods of just that. As well as the pressures and challenges of COVID-19, its impact of the economy and business and the looming threat of further lockdowns, there is also much political unrest and uncertainty. It’s not surprising that many people are struggling with their mental health. And while we’re probably past the initial shock of the pandemic now, its effects will last a long time.
7 things managers can do for employees to alleviate mental health issues
For managers, business leaders and employers, it’s likely that issues with anxiety, PTSD, burnout and depression will be seen more from their employees. These struggles will naturally vary depending on many variables, but the overall effect means that employers and business leaders must do all they can to support people.
Whether times are peaceful and easy, or challenging and uncertain, the role of the manager remains the same – to support your employees. This includes supporting their wellbeing and mental health. Here’s how:
- Show vulnerability
In many ways, COVID-19 is proving something of a leveller. And it’s certainly normalizing mental health issues. Most people are experiencing some level of anxiety or mental health struggle due to the pandemic. This collective struggle with mental health is inevitably destigmatising its effects, particularly for people in power. Business leaders that are honest about their own struggles will bond more with their employees. This allows you as a manager to encourage employees to ask for help when they need it. Research shows that truly authentic leadership improves everything, from employee performance to their own wellbeing.
- Demonstrate healthy behaviour
Rather than just vocally supporting mental health and self-care, as a manager you should demonstrate that you are living it When they see that you are taking time out in the middle of the day to eat properly and exercise, employees will be encouraged to do the same. Take holiday time and show that you don’t expect employees to be connected 24/7.
- Encourage employees to check in on each other
Managers must take the time to specifically ask employees whether they’re doing OK every single day. With many people still working from home or in a mixed work pattern, this is more important than ever. Employees who report that no manager or colleague has checked in on them during lockdown also report higher levels of mental health distress. Ask specific questions and offer support where necessary. While you may not always be able to immediately solve their problem, just showing that you are listening will go a long way to the employee feeling supported.
- Be understanding, flexible and inclusive
People’s priorities, needs and problems are shifting regularly. Everything from childcare to managing home working is taking its toll. Business leaders should ask regularly and offer to help solve any issues if possible. Proactive communication should become the norm and take a bespoke approach to your team. Be generous but remain realistic. Don’t mix up being accommodating and flexible with lowering work standards. On the contrary, this kind of management will encourage employees to manage more effectively and increase trust between you and your team.
- Trust your employees
Model this flexible management style by demonstrating changed behaviour. Tell your employees when you need to adjust your hours, for example, to fit in with childcare or other pressures. Show them that it’s OK to find new ways to get the work done while not compromising their mental health. At the same time, demonstrate patience and ask that employees do the same with each other. Adapting to this new uncertainty takes time for everyone.
- Communicate, communicate, communicate
Many of these measures need regularly communication, but you should continue to do even more than you feel is necessary. Keep your employees informed of any changes to organisational structure, or any updates the business is undertaking as the external situation changes. Don’t leave anyone in the dark as this only increases mistrust and anxiety.
- Modify any relevant policies
The aim is to reduce stress on everyone, including managers and employees. Modify and update policies regarding working hours, performance reviews, flexible working and anything else relevant. Consider everything from holiday time to expectations of employees. Be as generous as you can and consider measures to reduce hours where necessary and remain flexible for changing family needs. Be explicit about the reasons behind these changes and explain why you’re doing them.
It’s increasingly unlikely that the working world will be able to return to how it was before in the near future. It’s entirely possible that it never will. This is the time for business leaders and managers to ensure a supportive culture is firmly in place for employee mental health and wellbeing.