How to help workers feel better

'Being able to check in with an employee is a good thing'

How to help workers feel better

With a nod to Mark Twain, many organizations are always talking about mental health in the workplace but nobody is actually doing anything about it.

In fact, a recent survey done by ADP showed that stress is running rampant and as a result, worker’s mental health is suffering.

This is likely brought about by anxiety: 67 per cent of workers experience stress at least once a week during the pandemic, a jump from 62 per cent pre-pandemic, according to the report. And 15 per cent feel stressed every day, says the survey.

Key sources of stress include the length of the working day (28 per cent), problems with technology (26 per cent) and concerns over job security (25 per cent), according to ADP.

First steps to helping

This points to a need for employers to reach out to their workers and ask, “Are you OK?,” says Jennifer Heaslip, corporate trainer and founder of Shared Vitality.

“Anytime that there is stress and an emergent situation, we definitely see increases in symptoms, or underlying mental health conditions, pop up. Even if we just think about it, as humans, we all experience stress at different times,” she says. Being able to check in with an employee is a good thing.”

Sometimes, when people struggle, it’s not apparent to others around them, she says.

“We don’t always pick up on our early signs of struggle, and so other people around us might see something that has been a change, and it’s OK to have that conversation and check in and see how someone’s doing.”

To have that conversation, do some careful planning and make sure to ask the right questions, in a private setting, and be ready to do everything you can to make the employee feel comfortable to have that talk, says Heaslip.

And then, be prepared for an answer to those questions.

“Wait to see what the person says, and then go from there. You can ask them how you can be more supportive to them, ask open-ended questions. But definitely… give the person time to respond. If someone's not doing well, sometimes the processing speed of questions… might be a little bit slower because we're sometimes on guard with our leaders,” she says.

People are leaving

This rise in poor mental health means that organizations have to be aware that attrition is the next logical step in the workforce and it’s incumbent for them to be prepared.

The great resignation has caused a continuous flow of employees leaving their jobs at record levels, even without having a new role in which to transfer.

In addition, a McKinsey report published in July revealed that around 40 per cent of employees are considering quitting their current jobs in the next three to six months.

There are a number steps organizations can take to stem the tide, say experts.

  • Try work-life alignment rather than work-life balance
  • Revise job roles to better suit what drives employees
  • Give employees more “say” when it comes to the recruiting process
  • Always encourage feedback
  • Promote reward and recognition

Easy steps to take

According to a recent survey, there are a number of things that these workers want that would go a long way toward optimal mental health outcomes.

More than eight in 10 (81 per cent) of U.S. workers say that they will be looking for workplaces that support mental health when they seek future job opportunities, according to a report.

Specifically, workers want the following mental health supports, according to the American Psychological Association (APA):

  • flexible work hours (41 per cent)
  • a workplace culture that respects time off (34 per cent)
  • employment that provides remote work opportunities (33 per cent)
  • a four-day work week (31 per cent)

Nearly three-quarters of younger workers are prepared to leave their current employer for another that is offering better benefits, according to another survey.

Employers care

And employers are listening, accord to the APA survey as 71 per cent of employees believe their employer is more concerned about their mental health than they were in the past.

“More than two years into the COVID-19 pandemic, the workplace looks very different than it did before many businesses were forced to shut down or adjust their practices. Facing the stress of isolation, fears of the virus, and an overwhelming news cycle, it appears many workplace leaders have realized the need to address mental health concerns among their staff,” says the survey.

This might just be the silver lining in the devastating COVID-19 pandemic, says a think tank.

“The increased focus on mental health and wellbeing in the workplace may be one of the pandemic’s lasting legacies,” says Rebecca Ray, executive vice president for human capital at the Conference Board. “In just the last year, organizations offering programs to support emotional wellbeing increased 22 per cent.

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