The global crisis has brought into focus, a need for awareness about worker mental health care in the past year. Studies conducted in 2020 reveal that a large chunk of the population has reported an increase in symptoms of stress, depression, anxiety, anger, insomnia, and post-traumatic stress disorders (PTSD), among other psychological issues. A survey conducted in the US in July showed that about 53% of adults reported a negative impact on their mental health due to COVID stress. It has become important on the part of the employers, managers, and leaders to become supportive of the employees’ mental health.
In this blog, we are going to discuss the importance of the workers’ mental health in the post-COVID era, and ways to support them in the virtual and in-office settings.
The WHO defines ‘worker mental health’ or ‘employee mental health’ as the term that defines the psychological, social, and emotional well-being of the employee in the workspace. The term follows how an individual assesses their work environment, how they deal with the stressors, and thrive or struggle in the workplace. A healthy workforce that is committed to their work will reach their potential to achieve goals, show a reduction in absenteeism, and pay rapt attention to the needs of the clients to receive positive feedback. There is a need for a work structure to save them from burnout due to a lack of work-life balance.
To start with, there can be regular sessions to spread awareness about mental health issues in the workplace. Psychologists recommend training the workforce to have an understanding of mental health issues that can be triggered at work. This way, they would be able to recognize the signs of emotional distress in their colleagues and respond with empathy in such situations. Posters used in the workspace could highlight the common behavioral responses for stressful triggers, similar to that of physical first aids.
When the workforce is aware of the universality of mental health issues, they may work on understanding themselves better. The pandemic has affected everyone in different ways. The leaders can open up with their team about their mental health struggles to normalize the term. This may act as a motivating factor; encourage them to seek help or to open up about it. Employees look up to their leaders, and a step in this direction may lead them to create a bond of trust and respect towards them.
Talking about worker mental health is not enough incentive for employees to feel comfortable enough to open up. The leaders have to model these behaviors so the workers know they can spend some time in self-care and setting up boundaries. They can do so by checking-up on the employees often, through informal conversations in between virtual meetings. Offer workshops to educate the workforce about mental health and resilience.
One of the major aspects of removing mental health stigma in the workplace is setting up an Employee Assistance Program (EAP). The program aids employees with their personal as well as work-related problems to help them with job performance, physical, mental, and emotional well-being. During remote work situations, the employers could remind their teams that they have a safe space to talk about their issues to a professional mental health expert. Encouraging healthy food habits and exercising, and providing mental health programs such as worker mental health resource groups, meditation rooms could be the right step in the direction.
In addition to covering insurance for medical health conditions, include insurance for mental health issues as well. You can also make a network of psychiatrists and psychologists covering mild to severe mental health problems. Make the work policies flexible to accompany the employees during remote work. The employees should be patient and understanding with each other. Restructure your employee benefits to fit the needs of the employees during the pandemic.
While companies have already been using technology for virtual meetings and following up on work, they can also depend on it for employee engagement. The employees can be offered mental health programs such as art, dance, or music therapy workshops and virtual meditation platforms to help them cope with stress. In addition to this, online team meetings and game sessions could help the employees socialize.
In times of uncertainty, employees who have never experienced mental health challenges may not be aware of its impact on their work. Mental health directly affects one’s physical health, and productivity, and performance at work. A satisfied employee brings out the organization's culture precisely. In times of crisis, it becomes more important on part of employers and employees to become kinder and empathetic towards each other.