How do you support employees' mental health during tough times?

How do you support employees' mental health during tough times?

Be it a global pandemic like COVID-19, a natural disaster like flood, a war, or a recession — it feels like we’re constantly living in a state of crisis. While these are just a few of the global crises, there are endless local crises that a business is constantly challenged with. Needless to say, crises impact the lives of their customers, employees, and communities. While organizations plan crisis management to navigate such unforeseen situations, they also need to have a robust crisis management system to support the mental well-being of their people because any crisis can induce psychological distress that includes feelings of hopelessness, fatigue, anger, depression, anxiety, sleeping difficulty, etc. 

A recent PwC survey mentions that 76% of leaders have agreed that disruption has a medium to high impact on operations, while 95% agree that their crisis management needs improvement. Let’s take the pandemic as an example. When it hit us hard, most companies were caught off guard, and 70% of leaders mentioned that the pandemic had a negative impact, including the mental health of the employees. 

So, how do organizations strategize their crisis management program to support the mental health of their people during tough times? As suggested at One Mind at Work’s Q1 Member Roundtable, organizations can adopt a 3-pillar strategy —- protect, promote, and provide. Let’s look at each of these in detail.

Protecting employees during a crisis

When a crisis hits, the first step for leaders to take is to minimize the risks that can negatively affect the mental health of the workers. This involves identifying the risks and the hazards early and protecting the most vulnerable employees when a crisis hits. 

They should also have separate budgets for crisis management, develop a communication plan, and have a crisis management team in place. Keeping a clear and open line of communication is super important to keep everyone informed. 

Promotion of mental wellbeing

Organizations should focus on spreading awareness about mental health and its importance not just during a crisis but also throughout the year. Talking about mental health should be destigmatized, and managers should be trained on how to respond during emergency situations. 

The onus lies with the leadership to foster a culture of a psychologically safe workplace. Training, seminars, and workshops should be conducted regularly to build knowledge on mental well-being and how to take care of it. Remember, when managers and supervisors are armed with proper knowledge, they are in a better position to support their team members when a crisis strikes.

Provision of support 

Build a repository of information, mental health services, and resources that managers can direct employees to during a crisis. For example, employee assistance programs, hotline numbers, financial support groups, and employee resource groups are ideas for organizations to explore. 

Having strategies is not enough: We need more than that. 

Building empathy

One thing that managers can show toward their employees during a crisis is empathy. Understand that a crisis can impact each one differently, and so, as managers, you need to deal with the situation with a lot of empathy. Muster the art of active listening to understand better how your employees are feeling about a particular situation. Treat your employees as insiders and make them a part of the decision-making process. Hiding impactful news from the employees will only make them feel more anxious. 

Bringing in technology

Bring in artificial intelligence to support the mental health program at the workplace. AI can be brought in to analyze the mental health needs of vulnerable employees and the programs that are available. Based on this information, AI can suggest curated services to help organizations decide how to support an employee during a crisis. 

Practice transparency

Mystery meetings won't do any good to your organization or your employees, especially in times of crisis. Maintaining transparency is the key to helping employees know the actual facts and how the organization is planning to navigate through them. When employees have the complete picture, they will be in a better position to offer help and contribute to navigating the situation. 

Key takeaway

Having a solid crisis management program is essential for business not just to navigate the operations aspect of the company in times of crisis but also to offer support for the mental health of the employees. If you don't yet have a crisis management plan for the mental well-being of your people, this article will help you get started. 

However, remember that having a crisis management program to support mental health is not enough. Employers need to measure the impact of such programs and their effectiveness from time to time to ensure the programs are useful and support the mental health of their people during times of crisis. 

Do you already have a successful crisis management program supporting mental health at your organization? What are some of your initiatives? Share with us in the comments.