How Managers Can Support Employees’ Mental Health During the Pandemic

Even before the pandemic, many companies were looking for ways to support the mental health needs of employees. Now, as a result of the pandemic, many managers have been thrust into the position of focusing on employees’ mental health like never before. 

More than ever, we at Core Recovery are seeing people struggle with anxiety and stress, which can lead to more serious mental health concerns such as depression, burnout, and more. The triggers to this increased anxiety and stress are associated with the pandemic and all the spiraling impacts: isolation, job loss, parenting and caregiving responsibilities, fear, grief, and many other emotionally-charged situations.

So, what can managers do to support employees as they face these ongoing stressors, safety concerns, and economic upheaval? Here’s our advice.

Be Authentic and Forgiving. Working from home has had some interesting consequences. Maybe a child has interrupted an important video meeting. Or our coworkers have seen inside our personal lives a bit more. Or we had to attend an unexpected video meeting and we haven’t showered today.  While maybe a bit embarrassing at times … it shows we’re human. When managers are open to their own challenges, it makes them appear like one of the team dealing with stressful situations themselves. Authentic leadership has been shown to enhance employee trust, engagement and performance.

Demonstrate Healthy Behaviors. While this may be one of the more difficult things to do, you as a manager and leader should model the healthy behaviors you want your team to follow. What does this mean? Prioritize your own self-care and share things you are doing, like taking a break in the middle of the day to do some stretching or play with your four-legged friend. Turning off your email after 5 p.m. to help your spouse make dinner, read a book or walk the dog.

Connect Through Check-ins. We’re sure you’ve heard this one before, but it bears repeating. Checking in with each of your direct reports regularly is vitally important and should not be overlooked. However, just asking, “how are you,” is not good enough. Ask more impactful questions like:

  • What tasks are you struggling with, if any?
  • What was your biggest success of the (week)?
  • How are you managing your time?
  • Do you feel productive and if not, what obstacles are you dealing with? If so, what best practices can you share with your teammates?

Be sure to really listen, and encourage questions and concerns.

Be Flexible and Trusting. Take a customized approach to addressing the individual needs of your team and think outside the box for solutions. For example, you may be able to offer some employees dealing with childcare challenges to set their own work schedule. Be as generous and realistic as possible. You’ll need to trust them and assume the best until you have a reason not to. But being accommodating doesn’t necessarily mean lowering your standards. Flexibility can help your team thrive and have long-lasting positive benefits well beyond the pandemic.

Be Transparent. Make sure you keep your team informed of any organizational changes or updates. Feelings of isolation will be intensified if your team also feels they are being left out of important organizational changes or decisions.

Offer Outside Support. Make your team aware of any available mental health resources your company may have and encourage them to use them. If you’ve shared them once, share them again. Employees may hesitate to use resources for a variety of reasons, including shame and stigma associated with seeking therapy, counseling or any type of mental health assistance. Be sure to make employees feel comfortable about using the resources and assure them this information will be kept private, but also they should not feel embarrassed about seeking those services.

Encourage Empathy. The impacts of this pandemic can be very individual and far-reaching. Some employees may be going from two incomes to one. Some may have childcare issues. Whatever the situation, encourage compassion and understanding from employee to employee. We’ve all witnessed the remarkable power compassion and kindness can have on people. In these crazy times, support from one’s employer and coworkers can have amazing impacts on someone’s life.

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