As employers look to reopen and bring team members back to the office, if only on a part-time basis, it’s important to realize they cannot think of it as “business as usual,” says Mike Veny, who consults with companies on promoting mental health wellness. It’s not exaggeration to say we are living through traumatic times, he says. Employers must be sensitive to that.
“Our current reality includes large-scale health scares, financial trouble, political unrest and isolation. People have no assurance of what the future months hold. Even when things start to look a little more promising, talk of a second wave brings the situation into reality again.
“Your employees aren’t mindless robots that can show up to work unimpacted by the world around them. They are human. Even before this pandemic began, they needed to be viewed this way. But our ‘leave your problems at the door’ philosophy makes it difficult for employers to think this way. If you were operating like that before, it needs to change now.”
Veny says empathy builds trust with employees. This is crucial for addressing mental health and wellness in your organization. He offers these insights as business leaders bring workers back to the office.
Understand there are different levels of anxiety.
Most workers will fit into one of three groups — ready to go, wait and see or it’s too soon. There isn’t a wrong stance.
Be open to customizing reopening to each employee.
It may not be efficient, but it’s the right thing to do. Talk to your employees and find out what each needs in order to have a successful return back to the workplace. You may not be able to accommodate all of their requests, but you can explore the options and possibilities.
Celebrate the small wins.
If you’ve experienced a downturn during the first half of 2020, you may be eager to knock it out of the park and catch up. Instead of pushing your employees harder in order to meet expectations that were set before the pandemic, shift your focus. Start celebrating small wins. Acknowledge the work they are doing and any positive progress that is made.
Educate yourself and your team about mental health.
It’s important that you learn how to recognize the signs of mental health challenges and that you educate your employees as well. Remember that a decrease in work performance could be
a sign of someone struggling with anxiety and depression. Find ways to educate your team about the signs of mental health challenges and what steps they
can take to care for themselves. You can start with free resources on Veny’s website that you can share with your employees.
Be consistent with your messaging and actions.
Don’t just expect to say something once and have your employees believe you, especially if you weren’t in the habit of promoting emotional wellness before the pandemic. Ask frequently, “How can our company support you right now?” Provide them with examples of solutions that you can offer. Take the initiative to support your employees.
Mike Veny offers a free guide, “How to Support Workplace Mental Wellness As You Reopen,” on his website. Registration (first name and email) is required.