Founder and CEO of JSA strategiesa strategic communications company that partners with consumer technology, digital media and gaming companies.
Now more than ever, it is important for employers to pause and reflect on the effects the pandemic has had on society and identify the scars it has left behind. With global figures for depression and anxiety 25%, the toll of the pandemic on our colleagues can often go unnoticed. As leaders, it is crucial to think about how you and your company can make a positive contribution to the well-being of your employees.
As discussions about mental health, especially in the workplace, become more common, Mental Health Awareness Month offers a great opportunity to stop and think about how you can contribute to employee wellbeing. Especially as we move into a post-pandemic world where mask mandates are lifted and employees return to the office, employers need to consider how the workplace can be a nurturing environment where employees can thrive at work and improve their mental well-being. As leaders, our job is to consistently check in with and provide accessible resources to our colleagues, just as we would for a friend or family member.
Recognize how employees feel about personal transitions.
Most stories of returning to the office are filled with joy and excitement, but it is important to recognize and validate the mixed feelings that come with returning to a personal setting. The transition from solitary tasks during remote work to everyday, professional human interactions can be extremely stressful and anxiety-inducing for many. It is important for business leaders to accept that this transition to personal work can be easy for some, but difficult for others. Acknowledge all sides of the situation to make the change as comfortable and inclusive as possible.
Provide accessible and hospitable resources.
The mental health conversation has prompted leaders to commit more resources to support the emotional well-being of their teams. As a general rule of thumb, these benefits should not be complicated or daunting for leaders or employees to use. Giving staff regular access to a counselor, therapist, or helpline is a sustainable way to promote long-term wellness and address mental health needs as they arise. Internally, leaders must also recognize that just as an employee should take a day off for a physical emergency, an employee may also need to take a day off for a mental break. It’s essential to give employees the flexibility to accommodate their emotional needs and make sure they feel comfortable asking for this time off if needed.
Create an environment where mental health can be discussed openly.
Mental health can determine your employees’ overall ability to work efficiently throughout the day. When difficult times affect their mental or physical health, they should feel safe to open up to you or others for support and help. Sometimes it’s not what you say, but what you do that can make a difference in an employee’s day. For example, schedule mental health check-ins where groups form meditation circles or discuss best practices for overcoming trials and tribulations. Additionally, leaders can create a suggestion box where employees can discuss how to improve the workplace to further support each other, or even consider reorganizing the office for a more relaxed aesthetic to increase serenity. When employees feel safe, comfortable expressing themselves and know that they will be supported to grow and be their best every day at work, it positively influences productivity and camaraderie in the workplace .
Be receptive and understanding of mental health issues.
While the conversation about mental health is not new, it is certainly becoming an increasingly common conversation in the workplace, in schools and in the public debate. Even if you personally don’t have ongoing mental health issues, it’s important to educate yourself about what mental health issues can look and sound like in your employees. Consider asking clarifying questions or being candid about the fact that you don’t know as much about the subject as you’d like. By doing this, you can make your employees feel seen and ultimately become a better ally and supporter for mental health improvements in the workplace. There are ways to learn about mental health, and by providing time during the workday to invite employees to share their understanding and views on what mental health means to them, your company will have a more nurturing environment for employees to work with. thrive.