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Tips For Communicating About Employee Mental Health

Thursday, July 30, 2020 by Brandon Velez in Business Writing Tips

A recent survey from the global online employment platform, Monster, found that 69 percent of U.S employees experience burnout symptoms while working from home. With remote work life likely extending well into 2021, our return to “normal” will take longer than we’d all like. Researchers already warn that the long-term effects of the pandemic on mental health could inflict long-lasting emotional trauma and PTSD on an unprecedented global scale.

As the adverse mental effects from coronavirus compound, employers need to address this issue head-on. If employers fail to acknowledge and support employee’s mental health, they risk losing productivity, professional relationships, and profits. 

If your organization is trying to implement a strategy around employee mental health, below are a few tips.

Solicit Employee Feedback

In the pre-pandemic world, prompting feedback from your employees could have been as easy as popping by their office, catching up with them in the kitchen, or taking the impromptu walk to Starbucks. With spontaneity and in-person interactions a thing of the past, it’s essential to be intentional about communicating with your staff and gauge how they are feeling.

Scheduling bi-weekly or monthly check-ins with your team members is an easy way to keep the conversation going on balancing working from home. Use this time to check-in (not just on the progress of work projects), and how your employee manages the work, stress levels, and home-life balance. Remember, it is okay to come to these conversations not having all the answers. However, it is your job to make yourself available, find ways to support them, and be honest about what you do and don’t know about the company’s future.

By regularly engaging with employees on their remote experience, you will create a space where employees feel comfortable discussing their mental health. Then, managers can adjust workloads to ensure employees stay healthy, engaged, and productive.

Over Communicate About Access To Support

Plenty of organizations have Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) that can help employees with mental health challenges. However, your employees likely don’t know that EAPs and similar resources exist. Therefore, your organization needs to promote access to the support services it provides frequently.

First, establish a cadence of updates that is appropriate given the size of your organization and the programs you offer. Then, ensure your updates are explicitly clear about the support services and who your employees need to get in touch with to use them.

If these efforts are consistently promoted internally, it will not only normalize the idea that seeking help is okay; it will also prompt managers and supervisors to direct employees to these efforts, alleviating the entire burden of promotion from Human Resources.

Senior Leadership Must Communicate About Mental Health

Leadership during a crisis requires understanding and communicating about the fears and concerns of your employees. While communicating about mental health is something typically reserved for Human Resources, senior leadership should engage on the topic too.

This could take shape in the form of a blog post about the importance of employee mental health, discussing company initiatives at a (virtual) employee town hall, or a simple firm-wide email about the challenges of being disconnected from their colleagues. Be strategic in the spokesperson you choose, as they should be the most credible messenger for the topic. Regardless, the message needs to come from somebody in management.

Even before coronavirus, employees felt uncomfortable asking their managers for time off. Now with an economic recession and record-high unemployment, employees may fear that taking time off makes them look like slackers. Therefore, communication from the top can reinforce the importance of mental health and alleviate concerns that employees may have. 

Underlying this entire discussion is a much larger societal one about the stigma around mental health. The topic can seem daunting and uncomfortable to engage. But given the moment we’re in, employers need to lean in by soliciting feedback, over-communicating about support, and having leadership speak out.

Coronavirus is hurting everyone’s bottom line, that doesn’t mean you don’t have to lose your morale and company culture.

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