Healthy Workplaces: Mental Health and its Role

It’s deemed the “second pandemic” — the mental health implications of the global health crisis, economic uncertainty, social isolation, remote work, and more. Though it seems like the pandemic has been going on long enough for some of us to find rhythm in this uncertainty, it’s not the case for everyone. As you navigate workplace transitions over the coming months, you’re likely to see your team members struggle with anxiety, depression, and burnout. So, what can you do to support your team as they face all these new stresses?

The New “Normal”

The most important thing to remember is that this is not business as usual. People are worried. Maybe you or one of your team members has a loved one they are worried about, or kids who are at home because schools are closed. High levels of uncertainty alongside the challenges of everyday life have made it more important for everyone to develop healthy habits. It’s hard to be a good listener, productive employee, and sympathetic coach if your concerns and needs are giving you significant amounts of distress.

A new approach to mental health is key because a healthy workforce is a productive workforce. According to a global study of 2,700 employees across 10 industries, since the beginning of the pandemic, 75% of respondents say they feel more socially isolated, 67% report higher stress, 57% feel greater anxiety, and 53% are more emotionally exhausted.

Putting Mental Health on the Table

Even in such times, the role of a manager remains the same: to support your team members. That includes their mental health. The good news is that most of the strategies you need to be an effective manager work here too.

Be vulnerable. One of the pandemic’s silver linings is the normalization of mental health challenges. We’ve all faced our own challenges and being honest about your health struggles as a leader helps employees be more forth coming about theirs. Talking about your struggles, mental-health-related or not, makes you relatable, cultivates trust and even improves employee engagement.

Model healthy behaviors. With remote work, it’s become harder to notice that someone is struggling. Model healthy behaviors so that your team members feel they too can prioritize self-care and set boundaries. Share that you’re taking a walk or taking a moment for yourself so that you don’t burn out. Doing so humanizes your leadership.

Offer flexibility and be inclusive. Check in regularly, particularly at transition points as needs continue to change. Take a customized, realistic approach and proactively offer flexibility as enhancing and tailoring support can better help you address persistent challenges. In fact, employees want flexibility.

Communicate more often. Employees who say their manager is not good at communicating are 23% more likely to experience declining mental health. Inform your team about organizational changes and reduce stress where possible by setting expectations about workloads and deadlines. It’s also important to share and encourage your team to use available mental health resources.

While some of us may want to return to the way things were, it’s highly unlikely. Instead, let’s create an approach towards mental health that’s centered around compassion, honesty, and openness so that we can emerge from this as better leaders, better people, and better companies.