Fear, worry, and stress are normal responses for people when faced with uncertainties, like the COVID-19 pandemic. But adding the new realities, such as working remotely, temporary unemployment, school from home, and lack of physical contact with family and friends, the implications of the pandemic on mental health issues is huge. According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the prevalence of symptoms of anxiety disorder was three times higher in 2020 compared to the same quarter in 2019, increasing from 8.1% to 25.5%. The result is even higher for depression, which was approximately four times higher than the previous year, from 6.5% in 2019 to 24.3% in 2020.
As an employer, making sure that your employees are healthy and safe during this pandemic is very important. This includes taking serious actions in managing mental health issues and ensuring employees’ wellbeing during this time of crisis. This safety measure is not only important for the employees, but also for the business, because the estimated cost of mental health problems such as underperforming employees, worker productivity losses, and human capital costs can reach up to USD 2 billion per month in the US alone. How can you take better care of your employees? Here are some steps that you can take.
Understand the potential mental health risks for your employees
It is very important for the employers to first assess the potential mental health risks for your employees. Because different roles in different industries might have different mental health risks. If you are working with frontliners, you need to be aware that employees may experience additional stress and anxiety caused by the risk of exposure if they feel the customers and colleagues are not following the social distancing rules. While if your company implemented remote working policies, you need to be aware that isolation can contribute to anxiety and depression.
Assess the impact of mental health for your employees and the business
Once you identify the potential mental health risks for your employees, now your companies can start to assess how those risks can affect thoughts, emotions, and behaviour in the workplace. This impact will vary from one company to another, but there are some symptoms that you can anticipate. Many employees that experience mental health issues will experience confusion or difficulty concentrating and therefore unable to complete their tasks. It is also very common for employees who are dealing with mental health issues to experience low energy, having on-going physical problems such as stomach pain, back pain, and headaches, unable to accept criticism, resulting in excessive anger or highly sensitive attitude, even starting eccentric behavior that challenges their ability to cooperate with colleagues. When companies can distinguish these mental health difficulties, the management can effectively manage these issues and provide the right levels of support to solve these problems.
Develop a strategy on how companies can support employees in coping with mental health issues
There are many ways for companies to address mental health issues in the workplace, including developing a positive work environment with transparent and open communication. Engaging employees in wellbeing initiatives such as health education or campaigns can also help employees to stay physically and mentally healthy during this time of crisis. It is also important to provide psycho-education in the workplace to reduce the stigma related to mental health difficulties, including establishing an Employee Assistance Programme. Providing access to engage with trained professionals, such as a doctor, therapist, or counsellor, while also ensuring the employees are aware and understand how to access them, is also very important.
Being a responsible business, it is very important for companies to take all of the safety measures to ensure the employees’ health, safety, and wellbeing in the workplace, especially during this global pandemic. Providing all the required assessment, training, and access for professional support, companies can help reduce the negative impact of mental health issues, while at the same time prevent the fi0cial impact for the business.
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