Buck Bond Group
Treating the other pandemic: Mental and emotional wellbeing

Treating the other pandemic: Mental and emotional wellbeing

by Tags:

Mental and emotional health can be fragile under even normal stresses. The pandemic has added severe strain to employees everywhere: they’re working longer hours, experiencing higher levels of burnout, and showing greater symptoms of depression. The data continues to show that vaccination is not ending the emotional fallout of the last 14 months.

As a result, employees are reassessing the very meaning and purpose of their work, and they’re certainly looking for more support from their employers for mental and emotional health issues. They need to know they’ll experience no stigma over these issues in their workplace, and that getting help and support won’t affect their careers. They’re also looking for sensitivity to diversity and inclusion, given racial turmoil and hate crimes, and social inequalities.

As employers we need to help people pursue illness prevention and healthy lifestyles, not just risk avoidance or disease management, in an inclusive way beyond traditional wellness. We need to recognize that burnout and fatigue are just the tip of the iceberg, and that our work policies need to be modernized and made more flexible than before.

For an employee, having a job isn’t enough if they don’t feel nurtured and cared for. Without that, polls show that employers risk watching their top talent walk out the door.

Changing our response: Review your toolkit

So how do employers get there? By providing—and better promoting—resources aimed at wellbeing, skills development, HR policy flexibility, and culture building. Here are strategies to consider.

  • Wellbeing—Providing information to help employees exercise, eat right, sleep, and acquire coping skills is fundamental. Beyond that, use medical claims and other HR data, plus pulse surveys, to determine what your employees actually need, what barriers prevent using resources, and the adequacy of your current offerings.
  • Skill-building—Related resources can help enhance individuals’ resilience, teach reframing (ways to overcome addictive risks and behaviors), and reinforce self-care. EAP resources and counselors, apps and digital solutions fall short if few employees know how to choose and use them. Look for ways to increase awareness of existing resources, reduce the stigma that still exists around mental health challenges, reinforce confidentiality, and encourage use of these programs. It’s not unlike physical health: coach on how to find the right resource, at the right place and time, at the right price.
  • Flexibility—Give people a chance to recharge from burnout, through mutually flexible schedules and greater empathy in time-off policies. If you’re adopting a hybrid approach to work—a mix of remote and on-site working—make sure you have an effective communication plan that clearly articulates the new policy options.
  • Culture change—Our new situation requires empathy and training for supervisors and managers, understanding and role modeling at every level, along with peer-to-peer support. Demonstrating support for social activities such as employee resource groups, volunteering, outreach, diversity councils can make a big difference in the workplace culture. Building a sense of community helps reinforce that none of us are alone.

The need is clear. By listening to employee needs, designing and promoting integrated offerings, and living out a broader social contract, employers will prove themselves as trustworthy, offering a better place to work. And that holistic care will be repaid in employee retention, commitment and productivity.