Do You Mind?
It’s not just something that has come up due to this pandemic world we live in, but mental health is always something we all need to be aware of. This is especially important for those working in the age of COVID-19. Employers should be keeping close tabs on how their employees are responding in day to day operations. Mental health needs to be a top priority for employers in the midst of this physical and often social distancing. Many employees and people in general, feel the loneliness, fear, anger, grief, and depression of daily isolation. Even though there may be daily interaction, there is still a feeling of isolation for many.
There are things to look at as an individual and as an employer. But, there are differences. Keep some of the following in mind for your personal mental health:
- Stay Focused – focus on your own areas of control. Few of us are in a position to affect national or even local decisions. But, we can focus on daily choices within our own daily lives. It’s important to pull yourself back and focus on what we CAN influence, whether that’s our interactions with other people, focusing on our work, or getting a project done. Psychologically, we feel a little bit more productive instead of feeling helpless with everything going on in the world.
- Monitor Media – stay informed, but limit the consumption of news and social media. Particularly with social media, decide whether you are really connecting with people and are happier or are more stressed because of it. If you must tune in, set aside specific times to check the news, perhaps once or twice a day. And, read articles, don’t watch the ever scrolling news tickers across the screen. That constant barrage of information just feeds feelings of anxiety and depression.
- Have a Routine – having a flow to the day can be essential for workers who might feel stressed or disconnected. That means getting up at around the same time, taking a lunch break, designating work and no-work times and disengaging. Take time especially to disengage and relax. Refrain from pushing too hard, all too easy in this work-from-home environment. Even changing out of your pajamas into your work clothes each morning can help you feel more focused in the chaos. Also, work in some exercise. Exercise is its own type of antidepressant. Something is better than nothing.
- Stay Connected – feeling isolated and lonely can be a major factor in depression. When we cut ourselves off from those kinds of interactions that we’ve been taking for granted, we’re not only getting caught up in our own head, but we’re also losing a major source of support to help us through. Look for ways to meaningfully connect with those you miss – things like virtual happy hours, virtual breakfasts and video phone chats.
- Be Patient with Yourself – it’s important not to feel intimidated or upset by how other people are living through this. Comparison can be a bad thing. Don’t worry about whether your colleague is losing weight, your ex is becoming a gourmet chef, your friend is running daily or your neighbor has a nicer home office than you. You shouldn’t feel like you’re not doing enough because we’re not doing this or that. Let it go.
Our minds matter, so taking care of them is something of great importance. When it comes to mental health, employers need not sit back passively. Every manager and worker can help address mental wellness right now every day. Putting in a little bit of effort now to support employees will go a long way for their future health.
As an employer, there are some things to be focused on. Namely, they are:
- Offer Assistance – employers can offer Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) as a health benefit to support mental health needs. These programs provide short-term counseling for a wide range of personal, family or work issues – from emotional problems to financial difficulty. The services may be delivered in person, by phone or online. The American Psychiatric Association estimates the average company with 1,000 employees can expect about 45 cases or staffers using an EAP for counseling in an average year. This is not an average year. They are expecting more for 2020.
- Ease Fears – while it’s not easy for any business to operate under this strain, employees are also all too aware of the risk of being furloughed or laid off. It doesn’t help matters if management only shares bad news. Instead, whatever can be communicated about not firing employees but to retain employees, will go a long way to ease fears. If it’s possible commit to zero layoffs. But any statement that assures people they’re not in immediate risk will alleviate serious day-to-day stress.
- Reach Out – don’t wait for someone to come to you, make sure you are in touch, and in tune, with your employees. Check if they are feeling disconnected, and who might need extra support. If you notice the work really suffering, it might be too late. Notice when people are starting to struggle and offer support and help. Check in with them more often.
- Reduce the Stigma – our culture has long valued physical health over mental health, much to our detriment. As a result, far more people suffer from anxiety or depression than will admit to it. As an employer, sharing tip sheets and mental health resources as a normal part of staff communications is a good idea. Make sure the employee knows it’s not a failing or weakness to need help, especially if they’ve endured mental health issues in the past. Sometimes a leader sharing his or her own personal struggles can help to normalize that. Take away the pressure to be perfect and take away the stigma.
- Communicate Compassion – employers and managers can help ease stress in how they communicate with staff, so longs as they show their first focus is to care for its people and their well-being. Start every mass communication with that sentiment, whether for customers or employees. Be understanding when workers need to juggle work life and home life. When leaders treat their employees with empathy and understanding, employees are more likely to feel appreciated, to be productive, to feel that they’re a part of things and they’re valued, that they’re not disposable.
Even before the advent of Covid-19 was a widely known threat, three in five Americans (61%) reported feeling lonely in a January study by insurer Cigna. One in five U.S. adults lived with a mental illness, per the National Institute of Mental Health. That is especially bad news right now, when physical isolation is a public mandate.
Its effects can be painful amid this crises, 45% of workers say they are less productive and 50% feel less connected to colleagues, according to a new survey by a prominent management consulting firm. Last year, the World Health Organization estimated that depression and anxiety cost the global economy $1 Trillion annually. We can expect this year’s cost to be much higher.
This is what Americans are most anxious about according to a March poll conducted by the American Psychiatric Association. Look at some of the following fear factors for people:
- Family or loved ones getting Covid-19 – 62%
- Getting Covid-19 themselves – 48%
- Getting seriously ill or dying from Covid-19 – 40%
Similarly, people are having issues with how Covid-19 is affecting Americans. People fear the following:
- Having a lasting impact on the economy – 68%
- Having a serious impact on daily life – 59%
- Having a negative impact on finance – 57%
- Running out of food, medicine or supplies – 49%
- Having a serious impact on mental health – 36%
On the effect of this stress, people have some opinions:
- Having trouble concentrating – 24%
- Having trouble sleeping – 19%
- Fighting more with a partner or loved one – 12%
- Consuming more alcohol or drugs – 8%
Though this is all very negative, there is a light to be seen. If you, as an employer, handle your company with the kind of care you should, you can expect to come out of this well. It won’t be the same world we had, but it will rebound. It always does.
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David WB Parker is a principal of Parker Associates of Jacksonville, Florida, marketing consultants to the real estate industry; President of PTC Computer Solutions, IT Specialist, and an active real estate sales professional with Barclay’s Real Estate Group based in Jacksonville, FL. He can be reached at 904-607-8763 or via email email@example.com.