Monday, October 11, 2021

Coronavirus Update 10-11-21: World Mental Health Day

Yesterday was World Mental Health Day. It was also day 579 of the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Covid-19 has altered all of our lives; all employees are dealing with stress, anxiety, and isolation.

19 months into the pandemic, more than 45 million Americans have been diagnosed with Covid-19, 733,000 have died, and millions more have suffered debilitating illnesses. These are actual people, not just statistics, and we all know someone this virus has impacted.

Many of us have dealt with the stress of layoffs, furloughs, lost income, closed businesses, and the stress that flows from figuring out how to pay the bills and feed our families.

Parents have balanced the second job of homeschooling (or at least assistant homeschooling) their kids against their primary job of their actual paying job.

While life has returned to some semblance of normalcy, there remain many too many of us who are unvaccinated and, thanks to Delta, we all still live with the worry of contracting this virus merely by stepping out into the world. 

As a result, some of your employees are working with and through mental health issues of varying degrees caused by all of this stress, change, and loss. Some will be dealing with the exacerbation of pre-existing mental health issues, and some will have what I am calling Covid-19 PTSD.

The easy part is understanding that Covid-19 has caused these mental health issues. The harder part is figuring out what we as employers can do and should do to help employees identify and manage these serious issues.

For starters, there are resources available.
Other than letting employees know about these resources, what else can employers do to help ensure that employees have the support and resources they need now and in the future? I have five suggestions.

1/ Check in with your employees to make sure they are doing okay. I promise you that some of them are struggling. A little empathy goes a long way. Ask them how they are. Let them know that you care. Offer help if they need it. 

2/ Check the benefits available to your employees. Do you have an Employee Assitance Plan and are its mental health and counseling services are up to date? Are your health insurance plan’s mental health benefits easy to access and affordable?

3/ Revisit paid-time-off policies and consider providing employees the time they need to take care of themselves and their families. And understand that everyone’s situation at home is different. Some only have themselves to worry about, while others have children to tend to during the workday. None of this is ideal, but for some, it’s less ideal than for others, depending on how much non-work responsibilities are on one's plate.

4/ Consider holding town hall or all-employee meetings that focus on mental health awareness. If senior leadership encourages education and communication around mental health issues, your employees will be more likely to access care if and when they need it.

5/ Small gestures of kindness can go a long way. An extra day paid day off, a gift certificate for takeout meals or grocery deliveries, or a surprise delivery of a mid-day snack can help employees feel appreciated and connected instead of overwhelmed and stressed.

A business is only as strong (or as weak) as its employees. Those that are considerate, flexible, and kind will be in the best position to exit the pandemic with as vibrant and committed of a workforce as possible.