The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the world as we know it. The recent disruption and uncertainty both at home and in the workplace has taken a toll on the mental and emotional well-being of many Americans. Employees are experiencing increased feelings of stress, anxiety, fear, and loneliness – and they’re looking for help.

As an employer, there are tangible ways you can provide support for your employees and avoid unnecessary uncertainty and anxiety in the workplace. These four steps are a great place to start:

1. Have a clear and effective communication plan in place.

First and foremost, construct messaging to emphasize that your organization prioritizes the safety, health and well-being of employees. Acknowledge that employees may be feeling increased anxiety and fear, and communicate your commitment to reducing this stress in the workplace.

Keep in mind that a major source of anxiety for employees may be the abundance of news and information they are receiving on a daily basis, some of which may be conflicting. To avoid any further confusion, clearly communicate how COVID-19 has impacted the workplace and reinforce the policies and safety procedures that are in place. Having a clear message to employees helps them understand how their jobs and the workplace will be impacted, and is key to helping employees feel safe and assured.

2. Promote mental health resources you currently have in place.

Now more than ever, it’s important to promote any resources your organization has in place to support mental and emotional well-being. Employee Assistance Programs, counseling services, or mental health benefits available through your medical plan may be especially valuable to employees at this time. Make sure employees understand the resources that are in place and how they can access them.

3. Provide additional support to those who may need it.

Keep in mind that every person will have a different reaction to the challenges we’re facing and it’s important to identify and assist those who may be struggling more than others. Employees working remote may have increased feelings of isolation or loneliness, while employees returning onsite may have increased fear and anxiety around their personal safety. Employees with increased responsibilities at home may be experiencing burnout and fatigue.

Train managers to look for signs in employees such as acting out of character, edginess or reluctance to do a job they typically enjoy. Arm managers with next steps, such as directing employees to resources the organization has in place. If possible, offer more flexible PTO and sick-time policies for employees and encourage mental health breaks throughout the day. For immediate or critical concerns, make sure managers know how to refer employees to resources such as the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline or Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

4. Incorporate company-wide wellness initiatives.

Initiatives can be specific to mental and emotional health, such as guided meditation sessions, but they don’t need to be limited to this one area. Incorporating programs that focus more generally on physical well-being and fostering a culture that encourages employees to prioritize self-care can also have significant impacts on mental health.

Wellness initiatives that support employees’ overall well-being in a remote or socially distant environment include:

  • Mental health communication campaigns
  • Guided mindfulness and meditation webinars
  • Stress management trainings
  • Walking and physical wellness challenges
  • Virtual fitness classes

You can also add a social component to support those who may be experiencing loneliness. Organizing team wellness challenges or creating social media pages where employees can share progress, tips and words of encouragement are great places to start.

Employers have an important role to play in supporting their employees’ mental health during these challenging times, and it can be difficult to know where to start. To learn more, contact a Marsh McLennan Agency (MMA) advisor.

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