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25. October 2022
Mental Health In Tough Times: 6 Tips to Support Employees
From Covid-19 to the war in Ukraine and the consequences of climate change – there’s a lot worth worrying about right now. Because you can’t solve these problems as a single individual, they can weigh you down. This worry inevitably spills into the workplace: those who feel anxious often suffer from tension and difficulty concentrating.
What can HR managers do to support the mental health of their employees? We spoke with Jonas Keil, Co-Founder of the health platform nilo.health, who shared his six essential tips.
It’s a bleak datapoint: In 2021, a study by the DAK found that an average of 265 days of absences due to mental illness were recorded in Germany per 100 insured people. In addition, 75% of employees said they needed mental health support but were not (yet) receiving it (at the time of the survey).
These figures alone are alarming. And, they should be reason enough for employers to place focus on mental health. Especially right now, when it feels like one disaster is simply following the next – now is the time.
Investing in Mental Health Pays Off
A 2017 study from Deloitte found that the return on investment of “workplace mental health interventions is overwhelmingly positive, with an average ROI of 4:1.” Furthermore, companies focusing on culture and mental health enjoy twice the growth of their competitors within three years.
Tip #1 – Offer Empathy & Flexibility
Everyone deals with situations differently. Our first tip is to show empathy and offer conversations in which emotions, thoughts and fears can find their own space.
After all, it is not always easy to address and discuss these issues. For HR managers, in particular, it can also cause a strain on mental health. In our “Corporate Sanity” guide by nilo.health, you can find useful tips on how to deal with these issues as a leader or as a people function.
In addition, make room for flexibility. Employees allowed to take a short break when needed are more motivated and focused afterwards.
Flexible working hours are also a great help if employees want to offer their time to wartime relief efforts. Becoming and staying active in this way can counteract feelings of helplessness and have a positive effect on employee wellbeing.
Tip #2 – Make a Clear, Collective Statement
Setting the tone together can counteract feelings of helplessness. For example, you can get involved as an entire team and support people directly affected by war. You can collect donations or even help find accommodation or jobs for refugees.
As an employer, you should set a good example and actively facilitate opportunities for meaningful action. Show your employees that their fears are valid and work together to make a difference at the same time.
Tip #3 – Raise Awareness Among Leaders
Ultimately, HR has a crucial role to play in times of crisis and in rolling out support strategies. However, it all starts with your leaders.
If you don’t activate your leaders, you risk your employees getting lost in the middle. Suggested measures by HR will not be implemented in everyday work (and will, as a result, be completely ineffective).
Whether in groups or individually, you should seek to train your leaders first. After all, the better they are trained, the better it is for the employees and the general atmosphere in the organisation.
Leaders are multipliers for your culture. So, you need to embed the mindful handling of mental stress in a corporate setting. Times of crisis will challenge whether you are succeeding.
Tip #4 – Take Care of Yourself
As an HR Manager, sometimes control may be out of your hands. That said, you can still set a good example. Here are seven important self-care tips:
Take a news detox: Moderate your consumption of the news. You should start and end your days on a positive note. Consuming 24/7 news and updates on social media can – and should – happen somewhere in between.
Create the right environment: Surround yourself with people who lift you up, stay active and ensure that you enjoy the great outdoors.
Maintain a sense of control: You don’t have full control over everything that happens. Focus on what you can control, and try not to stress too hard about everything else.
Refuse responsibility: It’s not your fault that injustice is happening across the globe. It is also not your responsibility to let it keep you up at night.
Accept your feelings: Fears and anxieties are a normal part of life. Accept them, as it’s perfectly okay to not always feel your best (especially during tough times).
Push pause: Tasks that pile up can cause stress and get in the way of taking care of yourself. Give yourself license to take time off for your own mental health.
Access professional help: If you are in distress, speak with a healthcare professional.
Tip #5 – Help Colleagues Affected by Crises
Overall, it is undoubtedly helpful for your organisation if you clearly communicate that safety and good health come before everything else. This is especially true if your colleagues are directly impacted by crises. In cases like these, you should clarify some basic things:
Brief HR on how salary payments can be guaranteed or what alternative payment methods are available
Establish a company policy on advances
Consider what your company can do to help guarantee the safety of employees
Clarify what assistance can be provided, for example, in the event of relocation
Clearly communicating these offers will give your employees peace of mind. Helpful tips for HR on the current situation in Ukraine can also be found on this Notion page.
Tip #6 – Seek Professional Mental Health Support
An honest discussion with HR may not be the solution for every employee. Especially in times of extreme stress, or to prevent extreme stress, you may need to consider bringing in external experts who can help. There are a number of advantages to doing this:
Confidentiality: What is discussed in a counselling session stays there. There are no conflicts of interest, and all concerns and thoughts can be expressed freely without straining any organisational relationships.
Professional help: It is, of course, good to speak with your closest friends or colleagues. But trained experts can make well-informed recommendations and offer the right support in cases of psychological stress. But, it is important to note that short-term professional help cannot replace the value of long-term therapy.
Concrete support: Experts can respond to individual situations and, therefore, offer unbeatable added value compared to general tips that can be found online.
Remember That Everyone Reacts Differently to Crises
There is nothing easy about the current state of the world. But, as an HR function, if you lead with empathy, flexibility and even external expertise, your organisation can leave a lasting positive impact on your employees.
Remember it is okay and even important to be open about your fears and concerns, even as a leader. Showcase to employees that everyone in the company goes through difficult times in their lives, and it is okay to not be okay.
Lastly, don’t forget the value of creating an open space where emotions can (but don’t have to) be talked about and offer your employees the support they so desperately need in this situation.
Jonas Keil is the Co-Founder of nilo.health. A mental health start-up committed to destigmatising mental health in the workplace while supporting companies to improve the mental well-being of their employees.
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