The COVID-19 pandemic has taken a toll on the mental health of individuals throughout the world. In this environment, where people are increasingly anxious and may be socially isolated, it is even more important that managers support the mental health of their team members — both those who are coming into the workplace and those working from home.
High stress can quickly destroy trust, inhibit empathy, and break down teams — each of which makes it more difficult for people to do their jobs effectively. Fortunately, employers can provide some support. Here are some things employers can do to help employees manage stress and tend to their mental health:
When possible, give employees time to slow down and rest
With all that is going on, some people need more time to adjust than others. Employees may need a moment to breathe or even a day to rest their anxious minds, and they shouldn’t be afraid to ask for time to take care of themselves. The ability to occasionally function at a medium (or even slow) pace should be built into performance expectations so that employees can avoid burnout or breakdown.
If appropriate, Offer PTO, mental health benefits, and flexible schedules
In some cases, employees cannot afford the mental health care they need. Losing pay from a missed work shift might be too great a hardship, and effective treatments might be financially out of reach. In other cases, employees who can afford the time off and the treatments cannot fit appointments into their work schedule.
If you can offer paid time off, health insurance benefits, or flexible schedules, these can help employees get the care they need.
Offer an Employee Assistance Program (EAP)
An EAP gives employees access to expert, confidential assistance for substance abuse issues, relationship troubles, financial problems, and mental health conditions. These services are offered through an outside provider that connects employees with the appropriate resources and professionals.
Make reasonable accommodations when possible
If an employee informs you that they have anxiety, depression, or another mental health condition, and they request an accommodation, you should begin the interactive process to determine what reasonable accommodation(s) you can provide in accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The ADA applies when an employer has 15 or more employees, but many states have similar laws which require employers to make accommodations at an even lower employee count. You can learn more about the ADA on the HR Support Center.
Make use of additional resources
During this time, employees might benefit from this three-page list of several virtual recovery resources from the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and this COVID-19 resource and information guide from the National Alliance on Mental Illness.
With the additional stress employees, managers and owners are under now, it is good to relieve stress whenever possible for everyone. Remember to breathe deeply now and then and put things into perspective. We often worry about a great number of things which never come to pass. The best strategy is to do the best you can to stay safe physically and mentally and plan and prepare for the future while trying not to worry about it too much.