Empower Your Team’s Mental Health & Wellbeing Amidst COVID-19 with These 10 Principles

by Trisha Farrow

I would argue that one of the most prevalent concerns HR leaders and executives are facing right now is the mental health and wellbeing of their employees. I strongly believed this topic was important back in December when Versique Search and Consulting hosted an HR lab on Mental Health and Wellness in the Workplace, but now the importance is even more magnified.

The stats shared in December stated that one in every five adults experience a mental health disorder each year, with anxiety and depression being the most common. I cannot help but wonder how that number has increased and will continue to increase amidst all things COVID-19.

So much has changed since December. So many added pressures, fears and anxieties around frankly all aspects of health as a result of COVID-19: physical, financial, family, mental and emotional, school, career, the list could go on.

What is important is that we band together, share best practices, and support one another so that our employees, our people, and their families can be supported.

Here is my take on what is going to be very important now and for months to come:

1) Does your brand reflect you care? I think we have all heard that the way employees are treated during these times will define a company’s brand for years to come. I believe this to be true. Employees need to feel that their mental health and well-being is important and that they are supported during these times. What every single person is juggling on a day-to-day basis is pretty amazing when you stop to think about. Take time to recognize that.

2) Be in this together. Continue to talk about the importance of mental health and wellbeing, and offer free resources to employees such as webinars and e-learning courses. Get creative. If your team is up for it, start your meeting with a two-minute virtual meditation, sign up for a free webinar together, purchase off-the-shelf learning modules related to managing stress when working from home, etc.

3) What benefits? Remind your employees of the benefits that are available to them and how to fully utilize them for help during these times. Not only EAP programs and medical insurance, but also who to contact for questions related to their 401k and investment options.

4) Vitamin D Break. Allow for wellness breaks throughout an employee’s workday. Let’s be honest, you have employees trying to adjust to working remotely, and that also involves adjusting to working while taking care of kids, tasks around the home, distance learning, and more. This is A LOT. Allow for some flexibility and creativity with your employees’ schedule to allow for morning and/or afternoon walks, feeding and teaching kids, cooking and clean-up, etc. Now more than ever, figure out ways to measure productivity and results while supporting the wellbeing of your employees.

5) Get a Pulse on it. If resources allow, do a quick pulse check survey for how your employee population is adjusting to work from home, how they feel, what resources they need, how they can best be supported, etc. Then review what you have in place and adjust as necessary. Re-survey and adjust as needed.

6) Appy Hours. There are so many apps to help people focus on gratitude, mindfulness, meditation, physical health, emotional and mental wellbeing, stress management, and more. Block off recurring meetings dedicated to self-care for you and your employees on a weekly basis.

7) Transparent Communication. Ensure your employees are hearing from leadership on a regular cadence. When people are met with uncertainty, they will create their own stories, often far worse than what is happening.

8) Let’s Get Virtual, Virtual! Hold virtual meetings with your team on a regular basis. Personally, I think a quick, 30-minute touch-base every morning at 9am is great, but you may find that to be overkill. Make video optional for team and all employee meetings. This reduces pressure and anxiety for your employees. However, for your one-on-one meetings with direct reports, make video a requirement so you can see them. It’s often hard to hide when someone is having an off day or an off week, and frankly, we all have them. Pay attention and ask, “How are you doing?” Then ask it again, “No really, how are you doing?” Acknowledge that this is hard but that together we can do hard things.

9) Highlight or Lowlight? While I would love that to be a question about hopping over to my hair salon, that is not what I am talking about. I am talking about sharing your own success stories as well as low parts of the day or week. Now more than ever, people need to feel that they are not alone, so celebrate the highlights and pick each other up from the lowlights. Be real, be authentic, be genuine, be you, be human.

10) 1-800-273-TALK. Plug this into your phone in the event someone needs help.

What is your organization doing to focus on the mental health and wellbeing of your employees? Sharing is caring.

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