Mental Health Lessons From COVID
The declining numbers of new COVID-19 hospitalizations this summer across Canada and many other countries was positive news and certainly had an impact on the mental health of our teams. In light of this, we started to hear projections and predictions about the 2021-2022 fall and winter. What these months actually look like will depend on the level of vaccinations and the new variants circulating. But as governments begin to release guidance as to how schools, workplaces, and public spaces can reopen, many people may still be feeling anxious.
Our people are pandemic-aware, and rate a new set of safety issues as their top concerns about returning to the workplace, with a strong emphasis on mitigating the spread of disease. Air quality, the adherence to safety protocols, and general cleanliness, rank among the most important safety considerations. Your teams will need to feel confident that your workplace is safe and trust that your leaders and their peers are doing everything possible to keep them safe.
Mental Health Lessons From COVID. Our people are pandemic-aware, and rate a new set of safety issues as their top concerns about returning to the workplace. Click to tweet
Mental Health Lessons From COVID:
Your people Are Not Seeing The Light At The End Of The Tunnel Yet and They Have Lots Of Questions and Concerns
We know that many leaders and team members are feeling anxious, fatigued, and close to burning out, and if a fourth (or fifth) wave becomes a reality, these feelings will impact your employee engagement, productivity, absenteeism, and ultimately their mental health, for quite sometime. The pandemic has been eroding their ability to bounce and move forward. Research from CAMH and Delvinia found that about one in five Canadians are reporting high levels of mental distress. Overall, 20.9% of respondents indicated moderate to severe anxiety levels, 20.1% reported feeling depressed, and 21.3% reported feelings of loneliness. Companies like Deloitte are reporting that the mental health fallout from COVID could last years and that is without a further wave being a part of our reality.
Insights To Mental Health Survey Results
I posted two questions to LinkedIn and though these results are not at all a reliable sample or statistically significant, I do think that they add some value to our conversations as we move forward.
Thinking about your mental health and your resiliency, what key information will help you to thrive in the next 6 months?
- How to calm my fear & anxiety 27%
- How to simplify & create balance 14%
- How to prevent burnout 32%
- How to regain my energy 27%
As a leader, thinking about mental health and resiliency, what information will help you to work with your team and promote their psychological safety?
- Understanding what are my team’s needs 50%
- How to have supportive conversations 4%
- How to prevent burnout 21%
- Dealing with an exhausted team 25%
Other surveys, such as the Envoy survey of 1000 employees across the US, reinforce that your employees have major concerns about working on-site. 73% of people were worried about going to the physical office and over half of people would consider leaving their job if their employer didn’t prioritize their health and safety.
As a leader, it is important to address your team’s top mental health concerns and questions. Here are some examples of what the research is saying that your employees’ concerns might be:
- Not knowing if someone sick comes into the workplace
- Too many people in the workplace at once
- Being indoors with a lack of proper ventilation
- Inadequate or infrequent cleaning
- Shared surfaces, such as doorknobs or touch screens
- Slow or no effort to isolate sick employees
- Crowded elevators or stairwells
- People at the workplace who don’t have a reason to be there
Additionally, in this research from Envoy, an overwhelming majority of people want to work from their workplace once restrictions are lifted. Employees missed their work friends, and the water cooler chats. 94% of respondents said they’d like to spend at least one day on-site each week. Yet, the majority expect much greater flexibility in their work schedules.
And there are certainly actions that would make your employees consider leaving their job. Among those:
- Downplaying or minimizing the risk of COVID-19
- Colleagues and leaders not wearing a mask or following other safety measures
- Urging employees to return to the workplace before they feel safe
- Sending personally identifying information without proper privacy measures
- Asking for personal health information that they were not comfortable sharing
- Not allowing flexibility in work schedules
- Lack of communication about returning to the workplace
- Not providing proper equipment to work remotely
As you contemplate what the fall will look like for your business, you may want to explore the answer to these questions and concerns within your teams and your leadership:
What conversations, information, and training, will help your teams to:
- buffer themselves against the changes,
- enable them to feel safe and supported,
- and build their resiliency to move forward with energy and productivity?
In developing the answers to these questions, you may want to consider what we have learned over the past 18 months, especially those lessons related to mental health. As you build your return-to-work plan, here is what I would consider to be my list of top lessons learned that should be considered.
10 Mental Health Lessons From COVID To Consider:
- Environment plays a huge role in mental health.
- Change is going to be a constant. There is not a ‘new normal’ after change.
- Work is wherever the Broadband is for many of our teams, and not everyone is equipped to work from home effectively, nor are leaders equipped to effectively manage a hybrid workforce.
- Burnout is pervasive. The human body is the weakest link in a distributed workforce infrastructure. Technology doesn’t experience burnout, but people do.
- Loneliness was a growing issue before the pandemic, and this has only been exacerbated by the pandemic.
- Mental Health is a continuum. Stress responses look different for everyone.
- Anyone is susceptible to mental health issues.
- Building mental strength is an ongoing process. It’s important to have a wide variety of self-care and resiliency skills to rely on.
- Supportive Leadership is key to engaged and psychologically healthy workforce.
- Communication is the new workplace currency.
So, What’s Next For Mental Health?
Considering all your employee and leadership concerns and questions, along with the lessons learned, can be daunting as you develop your return-to-work plan. Remember, no two employees are the same. Your plan must be about meeting your employees where they are. Work with your team to develop a solution that is appropriate for their needs and your workplace.
Consider, have you:
- Strived to create an atmosphere in which employees are comfortable discussing the issues that are on their mind with respect to returning to the workplace?
- Created opportunities to collaborate with employees on the proposed return to work plans?
- Informed your employees on how to request accommodation?
- Developed a protocol if an employee is unable to return to the workplace?
- Considered how these policies and updates will be shared with all?
Most of your people are excited, anxious, and worried about returning fully to their workplaces or about implementing and working in a hybrid workplace. For your people to feel comfortable returning to working on-site, they need to both be safe and feel safe. People need to see that you as their leader and their employer are doing their part and are taking all the necessary steps to keep them safe. We know that if your company doesn’t take the appropriate action, you risk losing your employees to a company that does.
Although employee well-being is everyone’s responsibility, your leaders play an important role in creating a psychologically safe and healthy environment for their teams. Part of supporting your leaders in this, is ensuring that there is appropriate mental health training for both your teams and leaders that includes resiliency workshops to enable everyone to develop their own toolbelt of self-care skills.
Mentally healthy organizations are resilient organizations and they are continually adjusting and adpating to these Mental Health Lessons. Leaders and organizations who continue to invest in the mental health of their team and who effectively address these concerns as part of their return-to-work plan, will be able to adjust and excel in the face of ‘what’s next’.
Contact Beverly about hosting a mental health workshop for your leaders on how to prevent burnout in the workplace. Discover what is supportive leadership, and how to build resilience!
If you have some strategies to share – comment on this posting!