As the COVID-19 pandemic persists, and governments worldwide putting lockdowns in place, people are increasingly feeling the strain on their mental health. For employers, now is the time to step in and offer support.
We’re living in unusual times. With a global population at risk and worries about the economy on the rise, this is the most dangerous pandemic our world has yet faced in the 21st Century.
It’s understandable, then, that the combined challenges of social distancing and staying healthy have placed a significant strain on people’s mental health. While first-time remote workers are getting to grips with isolation, key workers are battling daily to keep the world spinning, and many are having to rebuild their whole work and social routines.
At times like this, organisations have an opportunity to show support to their staff, offering up help, introducing useful measures, and generally demonstrating how much they care.
But where do they start? As a business with a strong internal focus on mental health – as well as experience in technology and remote working – we’re happy to share our insights.
Keep Checking in
This should be the cornerstone of any internal COVID-19 response: keep checking in on your team.
For those on furlough or the government’s job support scheme, feeling ‘out of sight, out of mind’ can be a significant challenge. A regular update from the business can put minds at ease and greatly reassure individuals. Remember to include useful resources for anybody struggling, including links to mental health charities, or an internal mental health hotline.
Although employees still working have colleagues to turn to, don’t let them solely rely on one another: they can also benefit from a regular check-in. After all, with some colleagues notably absent due to quarantine or part-time hours, not to mention varied workloads, there’s a risk of burnout or frustration – especially if projects are put on hold or decision-makers aren’t available.
Keeping them in the loop about the business’ strategy and the health is crucial, as is maintaining a functional chain of command, ensuring they can seek approval and direction from decision-makers.
Provide the Right Tools for Remote Working
For many organisations, the COVID-19 crisis has been a baptism of fire for remote working practices. Once the lockdown was announced, businesses with a traditional office-based structure suddenly found themselves implementing new procedures and technologies in an effort to keep the wheels turning.
Now that we’re further into the lockdown and getting used to the idea, it’s a good time to audit the tools being provided. Are they functioning properly? Are they secure? And does everybody have what they need to be productive and stay connected?
Plugging gaps in a hastily-constructed security perimeter is particularly important for alleviating your team’s worries. Unfortunately, the dubious parties of the world haven’t stopped for the pandemic, and employees are finding themselves targets of sophisticated phishing attacks – extra pressure that can be avoided with the right security.
Elsewhere, the correct tools will also enable employees to stay in touch with one another, banishing loneliness and ensuring collaboration can continue long into lockdown.
Speaking from our own experience, Microsoft Teams has been crucial for achieving this, allowing our team to host meetings, webinars, and one-to-one calls with ease.
It’s no surprise, given the impact COVID-19 has had on the world, that many organisations are fretting over the future, and what the business will look like six months from now. In times such as these, however, it’s increasingly common to hear suggestions from employees as they pull together to help the business.
Offering people the opportunity to put forward these suggestions can help employees feel like they’re part of the solution – which they often are! Feeling listened to can also ensure your team remains engaged with the business and moving in the same direction as everybody else.
For employees on furlough, there’s an opportunity to offer them training as part of the government’s job retention scheme – providing individuals with objectives to focus on and a new skill to add to their arsenal, while also better positioning the business for the future, post-pandemic.
Speak with Hope
In times of crisis, we look to authority figures for reassurance. Although you are understandably not representing WHO, there’s still much you can do to instil hope in employees – including looking to the future with positivity.
Navigating the situation with a hopeful, confident tone of voice gives employees an example to follow in difficult times, relieving worries around the future of their employment, and the added dose of strength needed to get through these trying days.
In summary, protecting your employees’ mental health is as simple as providing the right tools, keeping communication channels open and confident, and keeping your teams engaged with opportunities.
At a time when the lockdown seems endless and the crisis threatens to overwhelm people’s peace of mind, taking the time to implement these actions could make all the difference to your team.
As a result, they can stay safe in both body and mind, putting them and the organisation at an advantage once the crisis subsides.
From our team to yours: stay home, stay safe, and stay in touch.
Are you or your team struggling with mental health? Find support from Mind, the mental health charity.