Many companies have begun returning employees to the workplace as they slowly and carefully open their doors. Restaurants, storefronts, salons, offices and even theme parks are hard at work creating smart strategies to keep employees and customers safe as they reopen.

But have these companies considered workers’ mental well-being? Along with re-entry comes a whole new set of uncertainties that can lead to anxiety, depression and other ailments.

It’s important that we leverage the power of communication to support our co-workers’ well-being as we begin this transition.

Follow these four strategies to make mental health a priority as your colleagues re-enter the workplace:

1. Provide employees with helpful information

One of the major reasons for uneasiness during a crisis is a lack of information. That’s why it’s critical to provide clear, easy-to-understand resources that employees can access quickly. To do so, create a dedicated landing page on your intranet with links to reputable sources in these key categories
Worksite safety protocols:
  • Employee schedules and office access instructions (e.g., only 50% of people allowed in the office at a time)
  • New behavioral rules to follow (e.g., wear masks, don’t use coffee machines, only enter through the side door)
  • Health and safety plans (floor plan changes, temperature checks, cleaning schedule, etc.)
  • Plans for dealing with sick employees

How to collaborate in hybrid environments:

  • Tips on using digital tools for web meetings and collaboration
  • Advice for connecting fragmented teams
  • Troubleshooting tricks for technical issues
  • Access to IT support

Employee Assistance Program details:

  • Medical and behavioral
  • Financial and legal
  • Family care

Outside mental health resources:

  • Contact information for non-profit mental illness organizations that provide assistance
  • Crisis hotlines
  • How to find a mental health doctor or specialist (perhaps via health insurance providers)

2. Help leaders lead compassionately

In times of confusion, employees turn to their leaders for clarity. A recent report from public relations firm Edelman shows that employees believe coronavirus information from their employers more than from the government, health companies and traditional media.

That’s why it’s critical for leaders to make themselves as visible as possible. Leaders need to demonstrate that they’re knowledgeable about the situation and are taking a proactive approach to managing issues. With frequent and open communication, leaders can build employees’ confidence and calm anxieties.

Support leaders to:

  • Provide frequent updates. Employees are eager for the latest intel, so explain what’s happening every time an important decision is made.
  • Reassure employees with comprehensive plans. Employees want to know the company has thought through all the angles. Share your plans for putting employees’ safety first while attending to customers’ needs.
  • Be transparent. Don’t downplay the severity of any situation—employees will see through the sugarcoating and trust will be lost. Instead, candidly share what information you have.
  • Set an example. Start the conversation about stress at the top of the organization and the rank and file will be more likely to join in. Let employees know that their well-being is important to leadership.

3. Build community

I’m finding personally that connecting with co-workers is the most important factor for managing my mental health during the pandemic. Companies should do everything they can to facilitate employee networking during this time, especially for hybrid teams (some working remote and some on-site). Here are some ideas:

  • Encourage web meetings with video so speakers can see each other’s faces, read body language and feel more connected.

  • Schedule virtual hangouts, such as group lunches or exercise programs, to help employees blow off steam while building community.
  • Promote online chats and sharing forums using tools like Yammer, Slack, Chatter or Jive so colleagues can share knowledge, answer each other’s questions and spark conversations over the web.
  • Set up a charitable giving activity to help employees give back, which is proven to make people feel happier.

4. Ask for input

Don’t forget to ask employees what they want and need. Run a quick five-question survey or conduct two or three fast focus groups to learn what types of information and resources your workforce would find helpful during this time. Then be sure to deliver!

Follow this advice and you’ll be well on your way toward reinforcing mental health, so your workforce is calmer, happier and more productive.

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