Mental health matters, for today’s remote workforce: a vast majority of workers (80%) would consider quitting their current position for a job that focused more on employees’ mental health. That’s according to a recent survey of 1,000 Americans, published by TELUS International. Research indicates that 75% of U.S. workers have struggled at work due to anxiety caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and other recent world events. On the eve of World Mental Health Day, it seems that the coronavirus has created massive amounts of stress, anxiety and uncertainty for remote workers and leaders alike. Below you will find three things that companies can do, today, to help employees during this difficult time.
But first, consider other results and mental health responses from the survey:
- 4 out of 5 workers find it hard to “shut off” in the evenings
- Over half of respondents have taken a “mental health day” since they started working from home, due to the pandemic
- 97% say that vacation days while working from home are important for “recharging” – another way of saying “mental health”
- Half of the respondents cite that their sleep patterns have been interrupted due to COVID-19, and 45% say they feel less healthy mentally while working from home
Employers don’t have to let anxiety and stress ruin productivity, however. Nearly all of the respondents said that it was important that companies prioritize workers’ mental health. Marilyn Tyfting is Chief Corporate Officer at Telus, a 50,000 employee organization that’s navigating the challenges of leading a remote workforce. “We recognize that our responsibility as employers extends to modeling the healthy behaviors we want to inspire in our team members, such as taking days off to recharge and sharing our own feelings and the challenges we may be facing as fellow human beings so that they are comfortable approaching leadership for help,” she says. “Our approach has been, ‘out of sight, top of mind’, for our people leaders.”
Here’s what company leaders can do to create a culture that considers the mental health of employees:
- Check In Before Employees Check Out: what are you doing to encourage interaction, outside of the day-to-day meetings and obligations? How do you invest in self-care, wellness and wellbeing initiatives for your remote employees? When people aren’t in the office, it may feel like your options are limited. But mental health initiatives don’t have to be quarantined. Consider creating (or accessing) thought leadership via videos and webinars, focused on self care, so that employees can beat back burnout.Virtual workshops and wellness classes are one way to set important priorities for your organization.
- Cover Me, I’m Working from Home: does your organization include benefits for therapy/counseling? How about providing one on one coaching for leaders, managers and supervisors? You may be wondering why coaching is such a powerful business tool, when it comes to self-care, stress management and mental clarity. Consider that an NFL football team has 53 players on the roster, and (on average) 21 coaches on staff. Why do these teams have a player to coach ratio of less than 3 to 1? Because they want to win. They want to know what to do to prevent a fumble or a bad tackle or a penalty before it happens – that’s the value of coaching. There’s value in learning to cope with anxiety, stress and other issues from a therapeutic standpoint, to be sure. The question is: when do you want to deal with anxiety – before or after it happens?
- Flex Past Stress: Flexible schedules are actually one of the benefits of working from home. Unfortunately, the work day has gotten longer. More meetings, not less, are driving zoom fatigue and pulling workers in multiple directions. Obligations are on the rise: are you keeping your cool around home school? A joint study by Harvard and NYU analyzed over 3 million responses since the coronavirus began. On average, the workday is nearly an hour longer because of the pandemic. How is your organization providing flexibility for scheduling, to help cope with the increase in meetings, emails and obligations? The misunderstanding around flex time is one held by most micromanagers, and it’s this: monitoring the journey is the only way to control the outcome. What happens when owning the outcome is the employee’s responsibility? Smart companies are flexing new ideas around ownership, responsibility, time management – and outcomes. How flexible is your organization?
People and teams can achieve surprising results, even when working from home. But the uncertainties of this virus have created spikes in anxiety, stress and mental health issues. The side effects of the virus, even for those who haven’t been infected, cannot be denied. Because we’re all dealing with added stress levels, whether we admit it or not.
Adaptation is the only way forward. The companies and leaders that succeed, both now an in the future, will adapt to a deeper understanding of the human condition. Leaders must be clear: these days aren’t like any others that have gone before. Knowledge workers need to care for the mind as well as the body – because a healthy workforce is a productive workforce. That means a new approach to mental health is the key to your company’s vitality, impact and success. How is your organization going to adapt?