In the midst of a global health pandemic, another crisis is unraveling: mental health. From financial hardships and social isolation to coping with loss and daily stressors, the global impact COVID is instilling in mental health is overwhelming.
To support employers with addressing mental health in the workplace, we have provided some quick tips for mental health issues.
Identifying Signs of Distress
The first line of defense for addressing mental health in the workplace is the ability to identify signs of distress. Individuals cope with stress and factors affecting mental health in different ways. The ways in which COVID has influenced an individual’s mental health may vary. For example, someone who has a family member or loved one test positive for COVID may feel differently than someone who has not endured that experience.
Some signs of distress may include:
- Lower productivity
- Changes in sleep or eating patterns
- Mood swings or outbursts
Addressing Existing Mental Health Issues
A Canadian study examining the psychological effects of quarantine conducted during the SARS pandemic revealed that approximately 29% of participants had symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and 31% had symptoms of depression. The study also confirmed that the symptoms were exacerbated by direct exposure to the disease. Anxiety levels have also increased due to a mix of uncertainty, fear, and isolation resulting from the pandemic. A significant rise stress and/or mental health issues can cause alcohol and substance use to resurface or worsen.
Providing Resources and Accommodating Vulnerable Populations
COVID has presented many obstacles for employers, specifically in accommodating vulnerable populations with resources and information. At-risk populations, such as elderly and individuals with compromised immune systems or underlying health issues, public-facing and essential workers, laid off, furloughed or terminated employees, individuals with disabilities or developmental conditions, and language barriers are examples of common populations that may need unique accommodations.
Some valuable resources for assisting these vulnerable populations may include:
- Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs). EAPs are employer-sponsored programs offering access to professional resources for personal issues, such as stress, marital or familial concerns, finances, mental health, substance use, and grief. This is a simple and cost-effective solution to improve employee well-being.
- Streamlining Transparent Communications. Employees want facts and additional resources regarding updates to evolving situations, such as public health pandemics. Ensuring you have adequate processes in place to quickly address new information and related updates regarding the situation. Streamlining prompt, transparent responses and relaying relevant information and resources to employees will go a long way. Be cognizant of any language or communication barriers, such as individuals’ whose native language is not English, those with disabilities, remote and contract workers, and other similar, applicable conditions.
- Flexible Work Arrangements. In the instance of COVID, many businesses swiftly transitioned to remote work environments. As businesses re-open and resume daily operations, individuals are still facing issues that influence their work. Childcare, familial and/or marital care, and at-risk individuals are some of the obstacles employers are facing in the recovery phase of the pandemic. Offering flexible work arrangements can be a mutually beneficial solution.
Part of reducing the stigma of mental health and stress of COVID-19 is knowing the facts. Follow local, state, and federal government and public health agencies that can provide real-time updates regarding important legislation, relief information, and resources. Communicating these changes and updating employees on business adaptations to comply with such regulations is critical to reducing the fear and uncertainty that is seemingly at the core of mental health. Connecting with local mental health providers for training, programs, and additional resources to support employees’ mental heath in the workplace can also alleviate the stigma.
Robin Paggi, Training Coordinator at Worklogic HR – a VensureHR partner, hosted a “COVID’s Impact on Mental Health and Tips for Employers” webinar on July 8, 2020. For more information or questions you may have regarding COVID’s impact on mental health in the workplace, please contact VensureHR. We value employee well-being and have HR specialists who are readily equipped to assist you with addressing any mental health issues.