From the toll of not having a separate living and workspace to the experience of lockdown and being unable to leave the house, COVID-19 has had a massive mental health impact on workers.
Some employees face more severe challenges, such as caring for a high-risk family member or taking on the responsibility of schooling their children. One in four caregivers find it difficult to take care of their own health, and 23% report that caregiving has made their own health worse, according to AARP's 2020 Report on Caregiving.
In 2021, companies have a responsibility to address the stressors of today's environment and provide mental health resources to support their employees.
With proper support, professionals not only perform better in their roles, but also interact more thoughtfully and empathetically with customers, who are undoubtedly experiencing their own pandemic-related challenges.
Internal communications leaders should continue to broach the topic of mental health in the workplace by using company platforms to bring employees closer together in a remote environment.
You can best support your employees by focusing on three key areas.
1. Provide tangible mental health resources to workers
Bring a sense of mindfulness to the virtual office. Invest in materials, systems, and services that allow your employees to decompress.
For example, Starbucks is giving employees and their family members 20 complimentary counseling sessions a year, and Fidelity launched benefits specific for working parents, including a childcare reimbursement and enhanced access to child-care coordinators to help secure additional and much-needed resources for working parents.
Many US employees have taken on more roles within their own household, including caregiver, teacher, and full-time chef. Providing employees the tools they need to help with an increased workload can avoid burnout and help them be more engaged in the virtual workplace.
2. Invest in workplace mental health training
Almost half (45%) of employees crave training on mental health in the workplace, according to a survey Vyond conducted in 2020, and it's likely to remain a concern for companies as many continue to work—and feel isolated—at home.
To help employees continue to adapt to the challenges of the virtual working world, internal comms leaders should work closely with their company's HR and talent development groups to provide steady-paced, quality-driven content that can help employees turn advice into practice.
Training can outline real-world examples and scenarios that show employees how to alleviate and manage work-related stress, as well as assist managers in leading their teams through this challenging time.
Video can be a powerful tool in training, as it provides a visual concept to an abstract thought or idea. Using video animation technology, Vyond Marketing worked cross-functionally to create a video course on managing remote teams' mental health to advocate healthy practices and support employee mental health in an engaging format.
3. Prioritize ongoing communication
In addition to receiving resources and training, employees can benefit from ongoing, thoughtful communication from leadership.
Leaders who are open about their own personal experiences and acknowledge that they, too, are challenged by remote work—even months into the pandemic—can provide much-needed support for employees. Leaders who share how they're implementing wellness routines, or how they're being more intentional about “unplugging” after work, have the power to significantly increase morale.
When people feel inspired, motivated, and supported in their roles, they do more work, and that work is reportedly less stressful to their overall health and well-being, according to a poll from Gallup. The poll also reports that unclear communication from managers is one of the top 5 factors that correlate with employee burnout.
Leaders can opt to send weekly or monthly company updates, provide an internal site outlining a selection of employee resources, and even provide a feedback platform where employees can share their own suggestions for improving the employee experience. Providing an avenue for feedback builds trust and sends the message that good ideas can come from anyone, at any level.
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Mental health and wellness should be at the forefront of internal communications as we continue to work through the pandemic. Opening up the conversation and communicating with empathy can provide the opportunity to not only improve morale and productivity but also provide that sense of connection we need to get by.