While it feels like things are improving, COVID is still impacting our work and home lives. Going on fourteen months, the fatigue and fallout are real.
Many WFH parents continue to juggle work, remote learning, childcare, housework.
The novelty of Zoom happy hours has ended.
Distinction between work and home life is blurred with remote employees working longer hours.
Front line essential workers are burned out.
It’s not clear when things will truly go back to normal. What’s becoming exceedingly clear is that declining mental health is a factor. Life during a pandemic has triggered fear, uncertainty, loneliness, isolation and disruption.
83% of U.S. workers claim they’re stressed out1
This isn’t good for anyone. As an employer, you can explore ways to support employees’ mental health. By incorporating some simple measures, you may be able to avoid a decline in productivity and prevent burnout.
During the initial months of the pandemic, it was all hands-on deck. Many employees stepped up to help pivot your company’s offering to survive 2020. That meant adjusting their home life and putting in lots of extra time to make it happen. Many are still working longer hours and it’s not sustainable. Here are some ways to encourage employees to unplug.
- Lead by example. Whenever possible, company leadership shouldn’t answer emails late at night or too early in the morning. This takes the pressure off your team and reinforces normal business hours.
- Remind employees that they deserve time to decompress and enjoy home life. Establish policies around after-hours work. It’s easy to mindlessly read email at all hours, but then you never unplug. Plus, any time hourly employees check email or do work, this is compensable time.
- Normalize the need for mental health support by encouraging employees to leverage the available Employee Assistance Programs as well as online or in-person therapy. Some companies have increased the number of free counseling sessions or waived any co-pay charges for therapy. You can also offer up creative solutions including access to meditation or yoga apps to help them clear their minds and de-stress.
- Encourage employees to take vacation time or mental health days. Even if they can’t travel, it’s important to take time off to recharge.
Whether working on-site or remotely, it’s easy to get consumed by deliverables and ignore employee relationships and team strengthening. There are so many creative ways to nurture a sense of belonging even when you’re apart. Here are some simple ideas.
- Call your team members. One-on-one calls to see how your employees are coping is a great way to connect and understand any hurdles they’re up against. It shows you value their contributions and care about their health. If budget allows, consider sending a coffee shop or restaurant gift card in advance of your call to make it special.
- Digital employee directories can be enhanced to includes photos, short videos, career aspirations, hobbies and more. Regardless of what department or team you’re on, you can connect more easily with other employees.
- Publish a “working from home” newsletter offering tips on a healthy work/life balance. Make it simple and fun! Ask for employee submissions about how they’re coping, what they’re watching on television, what books they’re reading, healthy food and snack options and inspiring exercise routines.
Look for signs
Formerly engaged employees who become unproductive, quiet, or argumentative is not normal. Sometimes it’s accompanied by bad attitudes, which can be contagious. That’s why it’s important to train managers on addressing troubling behaviors.
- Encourage an environment where the pandemic stressors can be openly discussed.
- Provide managers with examples of direct language to engage team members and understand their state of mind.
- Empower managers to adjust workloads, provide additional support, or a mental health day. Many employees gave a lot to help companies survive during the pandemic and now they may need your help.
MidwestHR is a leading CPEO in Illinois (certified professional employer organization). Our clients rely on us to manage their HR functions including payroll and tax administration, benefits management, workers’ compensation, risk management and more. During the pandemic, we have also guided clients with everything from applying for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) to best practices for engaging employees. Whether it’s work from home policies or protocols for returning to work safely, we are here for our clients. Give us a call at 630-836-3000 to learn more.
1 Oracle, Workplace Intelligence “As Uncertainty Remains, Anxiety and Stress Reach a Tipping Point at Work,” AI@Work Study 2020, page 6.