New research reveals employee mental health and well-being are a top concern among business leaders as we look toward recovery and the “new normal.” Overall, 27% of respondents of a recent survey cited employee mental health and well-being as their biggest worry.
The results are from a COVID-19 impact survey that WilsonHCG recently conducted to gauge the effect the pandemic has had on the working lives of those across North America and Europe. Respondents were also asked about the preparations their organizations are making beyond COVID-19.
Mental health concerns
The concerns for mental health and well-being are valid, especially as the survey also revealed that three in every five people (59%) said COVID-19 has adversely affected their mental health.
So, what’s causing the stress? The impact the pandemic is having on the economy is a key driver if the results of a recent Ipsos survey are anything to go by. A poll by the global market research specialist revealed the public now sees coronavirus as a greater threat to the economy than to their health. In the survey of 10,000 people across 12 countries, rising anxiety about personal finance and employment is a major concern, while the perception of threat to health increases with proximity to hotspots.
However, on a more positive note, the pandemic has made it more acceptable to discuss mental health problems/concerns with colleagues, according to 74% of participants in our study.
Interestingly, the results for our survey conducted in the APAC region revealed a lower percentage of those who felt the pandemic has adversely impacted their mental health, at 45%. But 60% felt it had adversely affected the mental health of their colleagues.
Given the unprecedented nature of the pandemic, no one could have predicted what has happened and it’s only natural that it has taken its toll on mental health and well-being. During times of crisis or uncertainty, employees look to their leaders for reassurance. Therefore, leading with empathy by providing regular updates and support is important.
Key considerations to help improve employee mental health and well-being in the workplace
Promote company well-being initiatives. Whether it’s money management tips, virtual exercise sessions to boost physical activity or encouraging healthy eating, all of these can help reduce stress while improving health and well-being. During periods of uncertainty, demand for such initiatives tends to soar – because that’s when they’re needed most. And don’t forget to promote your well-being initiatives and remind people of how to access them. Solicit feedback as well. There’s no point in having well-being initiatives if employees aren’t finding them useful.
Be available. Anxiety levels have risen because of the crisis so remind people that it’s good to talk. Offer to listen and encourage employees to reach out – whether that’s to you or their friends and family. Listen to what they have to say and come up with potential solutions together. Host regular virtual Q&A sessions for those who have questions or concerns so they can access the info they need. Check in with them to see if they’re OK; this will show employees you genuinely care about their wellbeing. Employee engagement is important during times of crisis so make more of an effort to engage.
Respect comfort levels. Remind your team members that it's normal to feel anxious at times. Everyone is struggling with the lack of comfort stemming from a new routine (and some might not have gotten into their new routine yet). When it comes to reopening (or any other transitions this pandemic will cause), allow employees the option to elect what makes them more comfortable. Maybe that’s to continue working from home if they can and feel safer doing so. Additionally, tell them it’s OK to not be OK, and asking for help should be encouraged.
Use video conferencing facilities. Encourage the use of video during meetings rather than calls. This can help reduce feelings of isolation. Just seeing a friendly face can make all the difference to someone’s day. It’s also easier for managers to spot if someone is having a difficult day so offers of support can be made if needed. On the contrary, the expectation of being on video all the time has coined a new phrase: “Zoom fatigue.” So, be understanding if the person on the other side of the line isn’t interested in being on video that day. The important part is to encourage an honest conversation about it.
Read more about employee mental health and well-being here
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