Taking care of your employees’ mental health


As we face into another six months of continuing to work from home, the impact of reduced socialisation, shorter and darker days and the ongoing uncertainty of the economic impact of this pandemic is likely to create mental health challenges for many of us.  There are numerous benefits to working from home, but the risk of employees working long hours, suffering from burnout and failing to take care of their own wellbeing is high.  Given the stigma associated with talking about mental health challenges both at home and at work, responsible employers need to make wellbeing and mental health a top priority.

Letting your people know that they are valued and that their health and wellbeing is important is relatively easy to do, but this message will only be credible if the organisation has a psychologically safe culture where people feel safe and supported to be vulnerable.  Anyone struggling with their mental health during these unprecedented times may feel isolated, embarrassed or unsure about what they are experiencing and unable to articulate what is going on.  With everyone working from home, the signs of mental distress are even harder to spot.  Don’t wait for them; encourage your leaders and managers to open up conversations by:

  • Asking twice (“how are you?”, “no, really, how are you?”)
  • Checking in with team members frequently and asking them to share how they are feeling (using an emoji, one word, a colour or a number can work well)
  • Introduce a ‘golden hour’ every day where everyone sets aside an hour to take care of their own wellbeing and go for a walk, practice mindfulness, exercise or whatever they find most beneficial
  • Ensure that people have someone they can speak to at work – a mental health first aider, or a counsellor or a coach who can provide a safe space for people to talk
  • Provide resources and practical support such as access to mindfulness apps (e.g. Headspace or Calm), webinars or this excellent list from Sanctus

Remember that when you are busy you are less likely to notice how your people are feeling, but for that person in your team struggling with their mental health, it is all they can see.  

To other people, it sometimes seems like nothing at all.  You are walking around with your head on fire, and no one can see the flames” Matt Haig – Reasons to Stay Alive

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