Decreasing revenues, business closures, hastily implemented remote-working environments— all of these are challenges that companies are grappling with as a result of the pandemic. But there is one more crucial challenge facing employers during this crisis: the decline in employees’ mental health and well-being.
Studies show that 1 in 5 working-age American adults are suffering from mental health disorders, an existing problem further exacerbated by the pandemic’s unprecedented effects on people’s livelihood, socialization, mobility, and overall health.
During our Spotlight on Human Capital event this past August, four HR leaders and wellness experts got together for a timely discussion on helping employees get through challenging times in a virtual world: D Sharma, co-founder and CEO at Wellness Coach; Abby Hamilton, chief people officer at LiveIntent; Hanna Linden, chief people officer at SignalAI; and Nicole Wolfe, head of corporate programs at ClassPass.
It’s Not All in Your Head
Working from home has resulted in the lack of personal interaction and collaboration, with employees often feeling burnt out and isolated from the rest of their peers. “Socialization is incredibly important; friendships are made and work is done in the hallways and by passing people in the kitchen. So to lose that was a lot,” said Abby Hamilton, chief people officer of LiveIntent,. “And that has a significant impact on those individuals and their mental health.”
This emerging dynamic will likely have a significant impact on employees’ productivity and sense of purpose at work — two vital things that they need to fulfill their job functions effectively on a daily basis. That said, tackling mental health in the workplace shouldn’t be something that’s taboo or treated as something that will add to costs — openly discussing it is one important step in helping your workforce remain healthy.
The Role of Leaders
Despite the worrying increase in the number of employees with pandemic-related mental health issues, more and more business leaders are heeding the call to implement mental health programs for their staff. “We are encouraged by the fact that a lot of employers are still actually doubling down on their efforts to provide solutions for their employees,” Nicole Wolfe said of their partner businesses. “They know that this is a really unique moment in time, and it’s really the time to provide support and opportunities for people to do what they need to do.”
When asked about how the role of a chief people officer has evolved during the pandemic, Abby admitted that the past 18 months has been a major test of her abilities. “We weren’t training to be mental health professionals. We weren’t trained to be the pandemic response team. But we’ve all had to adapt and we’ve had to step on the stage and be leaders.”
In uncertain times like these, listening to your employees and remaining open to their suggestions is crucial. “We made a decision to not ask anybody to do anything they were uncomfortable with this year,” Abby adds. “We were supportive of meeting people where they were on this journey. If you wanted to go in and be together with your team, you could; however, if you wanted to continue to stay remote, that was also okay.”
Leading by example is key. Hanna shared that their team at SignalAI have introduced a mental health certification program, a mandatory workshop that’s a part of the leadership training for aspiring managers in their organization. The program yielded positive results, and helped employees open up about their mental health struggles.
Apart from this, Hanna cited another example of their mental health initiatives, something she encourages other companies to adopt as well. “We’ve sent little care packages, little things where you feel the company is thinking of you in that way. A small investment, but actually brought a lot of joy to people.”
While employees may have their own ways of dealing with the burnout and exhaustion brought by this pandemic, business leaders have a major role to play in ensuring that they are well. Employees are human beings, first and foremost. While they are a crucial part of enabling the growth of a business, they also require emotional support from their employers in order to perform to the best of their abilities.
Watch the full session below 👇
[su_youtube url=”https://youtu.be/AAIO1Tm_c50″ mute=”yes” title=”Mental Health in the Pandemic: Strategies to Help your Workforce get Through Hard Times in a Virtual World”]
Photography by Yasmina H via Unsplash.