The daily news about and change due to COVID-19 has and will continue to be stressful for everyone. Anxiety about a new disease, the health and safety of our families, and the uncertainty of what could happen is overwhelming.  Adding to this the increased feeling of separation and loneliness due to social distancing.  An already stressful situation can become even more overwhelming.  According to a Center for Disease Control and Prevention survey conducted at the end of June 2020 31% of U.S. adults reported struggling with anxiety and depression symptoms.  This number is expected to increase as we enter into fall.

As employers there are things you can do to help your staff manage their mental health.

  • Communicate, communicate, communicate.  One of the main causes of anxiety among your employees is uncertainty.  Not knowing what is going to happen to them or their family can cause great stress.  To help staff manage this anxiety an organization should provide solid consistent communication. 

    If you are going to be making changing, communicate this as soon as you can in order to give your staff time to adjust to the change.  Change is tough but having the opportunity to think it through and understand it before it is implemented can ease the pain.
  • Keep an eye out for burnout.  Your staff are overloaded by all the things they have to deal with, health concerns, workload, family issues, and constant fear.  So, give them the opportunity to disconnect from work.  Encourage vacations where they can unplug, give them time to take a break during the day to walk around the block, and encourage them to connect with their family and friends.

    Also make sure you and your supervisors are aware of the signs of burnout: irritability, change in mood, inability to complete tasks or concentrate, forgetting important details or tasks, and cynicism.
  • Make time to talk with your staff.  Go beyond the everyday business conversations, ask them how things are going.  Encourage them to be honest with you on how they are feeling, do they feel overwhelmed or stressed?  Let them know they aren’t alone and that many are feeling anxious and that it is ok to ask for help.

    Avoid the drive-by conversations.  Make sure you have time to talk, schedule it into your day and try to talk with each staff member on a regular basis.
  • Be compassionate and understanding.  One major stressor this fall will be the re-start of the school year.  Parents will need help making the adjustment to their school’s back to school plan.  They’ll need to figure out how they are going to juggle virtual learning, revised school weeks, and their job.  It is going to take time, so when you can, be flexible.

  • Be the example.  If you don’t take care of yourself, your staff aren’t going to feel they can take care of themselves.  When you can, take that vacation, work that flexible schedule, and ask for help.

  • Provide them with resources.  If you have an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) make sure staff know how to access it.  Make sure staff are aware of what mental health services are covered under your health insurance or other insurances. Both the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention have a wealth of mental health resources.

Taking care of your employees (and yourself) is important, find ways to help them stay healthy both physically and mentally.  We’ll get through this together.