Employers can play a major role in helping employees weather the psycho-social impact of the coronavirus outbreak. Focus on honest, transparent communication, encouraging social support, and being pro-active in making mental health a part of your Workplace Health Strategy.
1. Provide information from reputable sources.
Provide accurate and dependable information for your employees, such as from the World Health Organisation or your government’s workplace health department. Avoid sharing information that will only serve to increase anxiety levels. Focus on information that is essential to your business, as well as employee health and safety.
If possible, discourage employees from sharing inaccurate or unreliable information. It is easy for social media discussions to generate unnecessary stress and fear.
2. Update your Workplace Health Strategy
Take steps immediately to show employees that their health and well-being is a priority. Integrate practices into your existing Workplace Health Strategy that will limit the transmission of the virus, especially if employees are required to work on site.
Provide the resources necessary to support your new strategy. This may include supplying materials such as hand sanitisers, more frequent cleanings by facility staff, or arrangements for low density seating during meetings or presentations. Think through the possibility of alternate work days or work weeks, and how these may be implemented to be as smooth as possible.
Communicate your desire to protect your employees when sharing the strategy. This will reassure them that their workplace is safe to enter, and they will be able to relax and focus on their jobs more effectively.
3. Protecting Mental Health as a part of your Strategy
Your Workplace Heath Strategy should protect physical health as well as mental health. With measures in place to limit transmission at work, the next step is to account for the mental wellness of your workforce. The psycho-social effects of the outbreak are very real, and can extend to undermining workplace productivity. If your employees feel safe and secure, they will be far more likely to show up consistently and work effectively.
- Promote mental health in the workplace. Communicate that mental wellness and physical wellness are both priorities. Use internal communication vehicles to extend this message to the whole organisation.
- Share mental health resources. Depending on the size and needs of your organization, share information to support mental health. It can be as simple as posting posters, providing the number to reputable helpline, or sharing recommended apps to reduce stress. You can also bring in speakers (arrange several low density seatings), host low density wellness sessions, or introduce new programs to otherwise safeguard mental health.
- Provide direct support. If you have internal mental health supports, make sure these are well-advertised so people know where to find them. Make sure to have a list of possible mental health providers for referrals, as trust and connection are important to a successful treatment path.
- Provide the means to access professional help. A health program that covers mental health sessions with an approved counsellor or therapist will allow employees to seek the help they need to overcome panic, anxiety, insomnia, and other emotional issues that understandably arise during such uncertain times.
This time can be particularly difficult for people with pre-existing mental health problems. Remember to be both compassionate and discreet in caring for vulnerable employees.
4. Plan to communicate with everyone
As an employer or leader, people will look to you for information, direction and reassurance. Plan to communicate regularly with all levels so a consistent message is heard by all employees, whatever their role. Some individuals or teams may require more detail than others, such as managers who must implement new policies, so make sure they have the detail required to effectively take the message forward to others.
Be honest, authentic and sincere. With the situation evolving rapidly, it is okay to say you don’t know, and are waiting for more information. The point is not to have all the answers, rather to continue to manage anxiety among your people by having open lines of communication.
5. Support social connections
One of the great benefits of work are the friendships that can develop from shared tasks and daily contact. These friendships are no small thing – they contribute directly to employee confidence, well-being, and success. Encourage employees to maintain these connections whether working on site or remotely. Offer advice or a buddy system to those who are not accustomed to maintaining networks via technological means.
Make time for informal conversations to give people a chance to reconnect and network. Schedule video meetings or coffee chats, or celebrate birthdays with an online party. Set up groups for teams so they can keep abreast of any evolving items, and to check in with managers, who can then pass on feedback to other levels. This will not only help support employees socially, but will also provide your organization with an integrated communication network.
6. Mental Health is a team effort
Encourage your employees to actively monitor and care for their mental health, such as how they will manage working from home while home-schooling the children, or the risk of the daily commute or working with the public, if that is the case. Make certain they take the physical and mental threat of the outbreak seriously, and know that their health is a community priority.
The BFDC provides a full range of corporate mental health services. Contact us today to inquire how we can help support mental health in your workplace.