Leaders and their HR teams have a lot to manage during the COVID-19 pandemic. COVID-19 has left employees around the world scrambling to adapt to a new way of life. Social distancing and adjusting to remote work can be stressful and navigating these changes has left many employees feeling anxious, depressed and uneasy about what could happen next.
As a decision-maker, now is the perfect time to demonstrate your commitment to your team’s overall wellness and mental health. We’ve learned that having happy and healthy employees results in increased productivity, lower long-term healthcare costs and less turnover within your business. Here are five ways that employers can support their employees’ mental health and wellness during COVID-19.
1. Use technology to stay connected
Create a community Slack or WhatsApp channel where employees can stay connected as a team and combat the loneliness that can come from social isolation. Use the channel to not only communicate throughout the day and execute work-related tasks but also as a community space, where team members can share tips about managing a healthy work/life balance, or healthy cooking recipes. By encouraging your team to interact on a more personal level during these difficult times, we can ease anxiety and loneliness collectively. At Optimal Living Summit, we use our community Slack channel to keep in touch during the day as well as bounce work and wellness related ideas off each other. Social and physical distancing doesn’t mean you can’t stay connected and in touch with your team.
2. Encourage your employees to (safely) stay active.
Physical health and mental health are fundamentally linked. While, gyms, yoga studios and parks are closed, it is safe to exercise outside as long as you follow proper social distancing guidelines as per our government’s request. Spending time outside improves mood and well-being, and is particularly beneficial during times of anxiety, stress and dramatic transition. By communicating to your employees that it is safe to go for a walk, take a hike, or go for a jog, so long as they follow social distancing protocol, you can help reduce their stress and anxiety.
Each year, one in five Canadians experience a mental health-related problem or illness. Unfortunately, despite how common mental health issues are, they are stigmatized within the workplace. Employees may hesitate to reach out for help, but by starting the conversation and by providing educational material on mental health and wellness to your team, you can normalize the issue and help fight the stigma. Try using your company’s wellness program to educate and provide employee resources for self-help and self-care while at home. If you don’t have a company wellness program or are looking for online wellness resources, Optimal Living Summit virtual workshops are a great place to start. Each week we offer a variety of free virtual workshops, all designed to support your employee’s mental health and overall wellness.
Now that your team is working remotely and outside of the office it’s important to set designated working hours and institute scheduled breaks or your employees may burnout. It’s a myth that working from home means that you and your employees need to be working all of the time. Communicate these guidelines to help your team feel more secure in their new situation and stay aligned with positive company culture. Encourage managers to utilize downtime to help their workers adjust to their new remote working environment and keep the communication frequent to combat the effects of social isolation.
Creating a positive and empathetic work culture has always been part of a healthy working environment. However, during this time of increased uncertainty and stress, the need to prioritize the individual health and well-being of your employees is stronger than ever. Leaders can help by creating a caring and empathetic work culture, where employees feel supported both inside the office and out. Managers who show compassion and put their employee's well-being first during this difficult time will see their team continue to be healthy and productive. Leaders should take time to check in with their team on a daily basis about things other than work. Host a ZOOM call to get some face-to-face time and remind employees to take mental and physical breaks, as well as exercise and participate in other non-work-related activities.