Top 7 ways to help employees protect their mental health
Business is anything but usual as COVID-19 continues to cause massive disruption to our economy and our society. If you’re an employer, you’re likely spending a lot of your resources (if not all) safeguarding your business and protecting the physical health of your employees.
But what about the mental wellbeing of your workforce? Does your COVID-19 business continuity plan include steps to address the fears and anxieties they may be experiencing? No doubt your employees have questions and concerns about the effects the pandemic could have, or are having, on their professional and personal lives – from their at-home work productivity to their job and financial security.
Consider that 1 in 5 members of Canada’s working age population was living with a mental health condition BEFORE COVID-19 turned the world upside down. No data models, charts or graphs are needed to project that the percentage of workers who are experiencing high levels of Coronavirus-related stress, anxiety or depression is much higher. In fact a recent survey by Morneau Sheppell found that Coronavirus is negatively affecting the mental health of 81 per cent of Canadians!
As the manager and insurer of health benefits for 1 in 12 Canadians, we have curated information from our health partners to offer this list of ways employers can support the psychological health and safety of their employees.
1. Have a forward-focused strategy
You can help alleviate stress by demonstrating to employees that you are planning ahead for the future, while keeping them well-informed and available to answer their questions. To that end, compile a list the mental health tools and resources they can access through their health insurance package and answers to their frequently asked questions. Update and distribute as often as necessary.
2. Communicate, communicate, communicate
Just as rumour loves a vacuum, worry and fear can grow in the absence of up-to-date information. Be upfront, transparent and consistent in your communications. There’s no need to sugarcoat the Coronavirus and its impacts. If you do, you lose credibility and the trust of your employees. Communicate regularly and honestly.
3. Leverage technology to mix it up
Increase the frequency and diversity of your communications by using video and conferencing tools, like WebEx or GoTo. That’s in addition to channels like emails, internal newsletters, intranet or recorded phone messages. Even if your situation stays unchanged, regular updates will reassure your workforce that their mental and physical wellbeing is a top priority.
4. Set expectations
Clearly communicate the expectations that you have for your employees while we all practice physical distancing and isolation to plank the curve on COVID-19. If your employees are working remotely, tell them you understand and appreciate how difficult it is to juggle the needs of their jobs and that of their families. Encourage them to take breaks as needed and to practice self-care – sharing health management tips and advice from trusted sources.
5. Be empathetic
Mercer’s newly released 2020 Global TalentTrends study recognizes the need for employers to “win with empathy” in our rapidly changing work environment – and even more so “as we face questions, concerns and the uncertainty of a global pandemic.” Acknowledge the toll that COVID-19 may be having on their mental health and wellness.
6. Highlight tools and resources
Remind your employees of the benefits that are available through their group health insurance package to build and strengthen mental resilience. Share the attached PDF with your employees, offering a Top 10 list of ways to protect their mental health during this pandemic.
7. Promote and Prevent
Let them know that it’s okay to take mental health days if the struggle gets to be too much. And, if they do get overwhelmed, remind them that expert help is available, around the clock, through their Employee Family and Assistance Program and other health benefits. Neither you or your employees want the mental health issues they are experiencing now to escalate into major health problems – both psychological and physical.
Our mission at Medavie is to improve the wellbeing of Canadians – and this includes their mental wellbeing. We have developed a comprehensive offering of mental health solutions to ensure optimal plan value for you and your employees. Learn more about our options here.