Perspectives Matter | Nov 2020

Taking Care of Your Employees During COVID-19

By: Amalie Zinsser | community engagement lead

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Now more than ever, companies are offering mental health and self-help resources to their employees.  However, even with more awareness and resources, mental health is still not a normalized conversation to have in the workplace. Plus, no one could have anticipated how our mental health would be challenged, all within the span of one year, by a pandemic, election year, climate change and racial injustices. Many people are navigating these struggles in isolation while working from home.

A recent survey of 256 companies by the nonprofit employer group, the National Alliance of Healthcare Purchaser Coalitions, found that 53% of employers are providing special emotional and mental health programs for their workforce.

Though the resources are there, some leaders may not know how to encourage their teams to use them effectively. We all know that in order for people to do their best work, they need to be at their best, so I’ve comprised a list with some immediate ways to support your employees and their well-being.

1 – Create an ethos surrounding wellness, inclusivity, openness, and diversity. 

Begin building a workplace culture that provides a trauma-free space and is inclusive to all generations, cultures and races. Hosting digital roundtables and Slack channels dedicated to this space can help show the care and lines of communication are open. Establishing a genuine connection and finding time to support your workforce outside of happy hour Zoom calls, which people grew tired of pretty quickly, will make this message more impactful.

It’s important not to shy away from these topics. Ideally, you can be a part of those conversations, now more than ever. Don’t wait for something negative to spark up a motion of support — start the conversation to show that you are aware.

Ways to create this ethos:

  • Host monthly speakers to discuss their insights on wellness and work balance.
  • Be transparent about how the company is diversifying the leadership team and candidate pool.
  • Revisit and establish policies that strengthen any anti-harassment policies so all feel welcome in the workforce.

2 – Set policies that promote work-life balance.

Working remotely and not taking time off is setting up employees for burn out. Some employees are trying to balance taking care of their children in this wild juggling act. Many people are putting others and their deliverables first, not themselves. Leaders need to ensure employees are taking care of themselves, not only for employees’ health but for that of their overall workforce. For example, Kickstand Communications is giving its employees three hours each week to disconnect, according to Business Insider.

If you have the luxury to offer a three-day weekend every month, do it. That extra day is for them. Go the extra mile and provide active break sessions in their calendar to support meditation, a quick run, or yoga.

3 – Cover the costs to provide resources.

Starbucks has announced that employees who work 20 hours or more per week are now entitled to  expanded mental health benefits. You can also offer memberships to applications that provide insights and tips on bettering mental health, such as Headspace ($69.99 annually per individual with special pricing for larger teams). Going the extra mile to extend this to family members is a way to show that we are in this together and here to support all.

4 – Be aware of the news.

Setting a calendar reminder to start your day to read the news to know what might be impacting your team is another way to be in the know and ready to support your team. This will go a long way in developing a trusting environment. You should already have a pulse on what is heavy on your employees’ minds to know what you should be ready for with any breaking news. If you see something that you know might affect your team, be ready and willing to have an open conversation. Be sensitive to the idea that breaking news will have different impacts on different people.

These are just some small things to have an impactful and supportive environment for mental health. Here at UnCommons, we are creating the foundation to provide a return to the office that is more mindful and empathetic to our community’s current needs. Here are a few examples of some programs we are developing:

  • Positive reinforcement through signs and messages across the campus through our Good Thoughts Everyday effort.
  • Promoting health through community collaboration in programs like our Sunrise Series, a regular morning event to help people energize, inspire, and set intentions for the day or week.
  • Uncommon Bonds focusing on setting up meaningful peer-to-peer and mentorship relationships focused on personal and professional development.
  • Rejuvenation and outdoor spaces where employees are invited to unwind and relax during the workday.

We are all human, and we are all trying to thrive. Let’s do it together.

Amalie Zinsser is the community engagement lead at UnCommons, where she serves to foster a culture of the community.