Mental health is one of the hottest HR topics in recent years, however it is still a taboo subject in many workplaces.
Here are some key strategies businesses should look to implement to promote resilience and help their employees deal with any potential mental health issues, according to a recent report by International SOS:
1. Take steps to check in individually with every employee
It's important for businesses to treat every employee as an individual because different people respond to the stress brought on by the pandemic in different ways, potentially causing a range of mental health issues.
The first step is to actively check in with employees on a one-to-one situation, as this allows employers to form a greater understanding of how employees are coping through this particularly difficult period. This can also be done by carrying out mental health or resilience surveys with tools that have scientifically been validated and can reveal individual pain points.
2. Make sure people have and are aware of secure routes for reporting their mental health issues
Often people may feel intimidated by the prospect discuss their mental health with the colleagues and manager they work with on a day-to-day basis. To counter this, it's important that employees are able to discuss their mental health issues with people within the business away from their direct teams, preferably a HR manager or someone with mental wellness training.
Removing the stigma around discussing mental health issues is an important part of creating a culture of health within an organisation. Getting leaders to walk the talk is key.
3. Allow and encourage employees to take breaks
To be at our most productive, it's important to take regular breaks. One useful way is the Pomodoro Technique. This involves using a timer (the ‘Pomodoro’ original or other timer), to break down work into intervals, separated by short breaks.
The steps of the technique are: Decide on the task to be done and set a timer, usually to 25 minutes, and work on the task. When the timer rings, put a checkmark on a piece of paper and take a break. If you have fewer than four checkmarks, take a short break of three to five minutes and then reset the timer. After four checkmarks, take a longer break of 15–30 minutes. Then start the technique again, resetting your checkmark count to zero.
4. Consider the information employees are receiving
People are bombarded in their daily, technology-filled lives with more and more information that is hard to get away from. Some of the information around the coronavirus is simply distracting and factually inaccurate. Both a lack of information and poor-quality information has been shown to increase irrational thinking. Checking in with employees on a personal level to make sure they are receiving information from legitimate sources is an important task for employers.
5. Provide employees with the tools to help them, understanding and encouraging them to take a level of personal responsibility
Ultimately businesses need to be focused on creating the conditions in which an individual employee is able to take responsibility for their mental wellbeing, finding the particular strategies which work for them. This links fundamentally to the workplace culture businesses cultivate. A culture which promotes self-care and provides the tools for this can be invaluable for employees.
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