Employee mental health isn’t improving, and HR will almost certainly have to do more to help

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Employee mental health isn’t improving, and HR will almost certainly have to do more to help.

According to a study from The Conference Board, more than half of all employees believe their mental health has deteriorated since the pandemic began and women have suffered at a higher rate than males.

HR professionals, on the other hand, are unlikely to be surprised. In practice, you see it virtually every day: more employees are quitting than ever before. Many people have requested to or have just left. And you’ve undoubtedly seen a spike in demand for mental health resources as well. Furthermore, many employees are no longer as engaged or productive as they previously were.

“We aren’t as ‘fresh’ as we were even a year ago.” Back then we were around nine months into the pandemic and at the time we still had the mental and physical resources to cope with the ups and downs of the new normal,” says Andrew Shatté, PhD, chief knowledge officer and co-founder of meQuilibrium. “However, we are currently experiencing unprecedented levels of weariness and burnout. And there’s no sign of a resolution in sight.”

Here are five strategies for helping employees recoup and flourish, with an emphasis on employee mental health.

Don’t avoid dealing with anxiety

Dr. Rachelle Scott, Eden Health’s medical director of psychiatry says “Fear, loneliness, melancholy, and hopelessness, which many individuals felt earlier in the pandemic, may be triggered by this.”

Be as open and proactive as possible to reduce worry. Find strategies to make the workplace predictable in the face of so much unpredictability in life. Employees’ favourite informal routines should be continued or restarted. Schedule meetings and workflows as far ahead as possible so that workers are prepared.

“There is no such thing as too much communication,” Scott explains. “You want to make sure that each of your staff understands what your goal is and what their responsibilities are.”

Return-to-work, continuous health and safety, and contingency plans should all be included.

Be prepared for a potential burnout

Employees are still feeling burned out and lonely, which are two big factors contributing to the mental health epidemic.

“We are social animals, and we all require actual interaction, especially introverts,” Shatté explains. “We are at risk of huge surges in mental disease, notably clinical anxiety and despair, when we spend this much time apart from people’’. HR leaders and front-line managers will want to strive to avoid burnout rather than treat it.

Employers should, according to Shatté:

  • Front-line supervisors should be taught how to recognise indicators of mental illness and how to refer their employees to appropriate resources.
  • Provide resilience lessons.
  • Examine employment circumstances to ensure that they have the freedom to manage work and personal obligations.

“Renegotiate the employer-employee social contract,” Shatté argues, since “what we are going through now is not what people signed up for.”

Recognize and respond to changes

People’s perceptions on practically every area of their life, particularly employment, were altered by the pandemic.

“What’s essential to individuals has changed in many ways,” Scott adds. “Even in the early days of the pandemic, the most significant concerns were money, work position, and location.” But, in many circumstances, establishing a solid work/life balance is now even more crucial.”

As a result, companies should strive to match their ideas and expectations with those of their employees.

Employees are the finest source of information. Create questionnaires asking people to rank their priorities before and after the pandemic, such as work/life balance, workplace safety, teamwork, and remuneration. Employees may find it eye-opening to examine how their opinions have shifted.

Benefits, rules, and processes can be adapted or designed in HR to reflect overall trends. Front-line managers may be able to utilise the feedback to set new goals, rewards, and expectations for their staff on a personal level.

Extend your possibilities rather than making assumptions

On the negative side, the pandemic exacerbated mental health problems. On the plus side, the rise has made it easier to talk about and manage mental health. Employee mental health used to be stigmatised, but that is no longer the case.

“The pandemic had a significant impact on people’s perceptions of their own lives.” It changed their perceptions of needing to go to work every day. In a Conference Board podcast, Dr. Srini Pillay, co-founder and chief medical officer at Reulay Inc. and former head of the Outpatient Anxiety Disorders Program at Harvard Medical School’s McLean Hospital, says, “It challenged ideas about what is acceptable and what isn’t acceptable.”

They now have fresh ideas on how to best battle mental health challenges. According to Conference Board study, the following are the things that employees would value the most:

  • Flexible working hours or a shorter work week
  • Pro-hybrid work schedules 
  • Events for recognition, gratitude, and team building
  • Employee resource groups for mental health (ERGs)
  • Sick pay
  • Daycare and dependent-care benefits

Make it easy to get assistance

Whatever services you provide to boost employee mental health, you’ll want to make it as simple as possible for individuals to use them.

“Make sure you explain the services accessible to your staff for mental health help in a clear and concise manner,” Scott advises.

Consider providing staff with the time and opportunity to take mental health days in addition to a mental health communication strategy.

See how HealthBoxHR can help your business manage and support your employees mental health with our Mental Health Management Tool. 

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