In 2019, the Mental Health Foundation found that 74% of the workforce felt so stressed they were unable to cope (and this was before this whole COVID-19 situation even started). The pandemic is taking its toll on our economy and the daily struggles employees have to go through: job security, safety, and just a general dread wondering “Will I be next?”- can make anyone fall into a pit of anxiety and stress. To make matters worse, most people are stuck at home with significantly less social interaction and recreational activities like travelling or going to the gym/bar- all things most people use as ways to “destress” and take mental breaks from work.
As an employer, it’s important to remember that the mental, physical, and emotional state of your employees matters and you have a responsibility in maintaining that happiness despite the looming pandemic. Here are some things that can help you manage employee stress during these challenging times:
Acknowledge the situation
Nothing is worse than telling people to “suck it up” and “deal with it” on their own. It’s important to acknowledge that this situation is less than ideal and that they are most likely dealing with a lot of personal problems mentally and emotionally.
Clear, transparent, safe communication
Two-way communication takes a lot more effort in the virtual online space. Hopping on video conference calls can be a lot more valuable these days versus just simply chatting through a screen. Make sure you listen to your employees' problems, ask them how they’re doing, and transparent with your own difficulties. This can build rapport and camaraderie. Lend them an ear and give them a safe space where they can vent.
Recognize work fatigue and take steps to mitigate it
Working from home does have its benefits, but most people find themselves overworked because it doesn’t have an “off button”. Unlike office-based work, you can open up your laptop at any time and start working instead of leaving everything at the office. Make sure to set a fixed work schedule and respect your employees off-times by not messaging or setting meetings when they are technically off duty. Setting boundaries is important in helping both you and your employees.
Giving them a proper health care plan
One of the biggest reasons employees are experiencing anxiety is from the nagging feeling of: “If I get COVID-19 what happens next? How do I pay for the medical expenses?”. Giving them a proper health care plan or upgrading it if you already have one can definitely quash those fears. Health care plans don’t need to be expensive. ALLCARE’s SME plan can give your employees 200K worth of HMO + employee benefits for as low as 15K per member per year.
Protect them - follow the guidelines set to prevent and control COVID-19 spread
If you need your employees to head back to the office, try to provide everything you can in order to ensure they are safe and protected from the virus and fatigue. Transportation is a major roadblock for most as well as getting proper PPE equipment when inside the workplace. You should also be disinfecting and preparing the workplace before they return. Learn more about Workplace Guidelines to Prevent and Control COVID-19.
Mental health is an important issue that needs to be addressed and acknowledged by all employers. A happy employee makes for a happy workplace. We should all do our part in helping each other get through this pandemic and this new normal together.