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Managing Employee Mental Well-Being in the Era of COVID-19

CoAdvantage- 2020 is not taking it easy on anyone. It’s brought concerns about catching a potentially deadly disease or catching it and passing it on to loved ones. Concerns about job stability. Having to work from home in situations that might not be ideal, or having to come into work and worry about health risks. Having to figure out child care and remote education while working. Worrying about the election, wildfires, hurricanes, protests, and more. It’s a lot, ok? That means it’s more important than ever to ensure that employee mental well-being is addressed in the workplace.

If nothing else, it’s good for business: A Gallup study into the relationship between employee mental well-being and business results suggests “a strong positive correlation between employee well-being, productivity, and firm performance.”

The first and most foundational step is to address any immediate safety concerns, particularly around COVID-19. Our other recommendations (below) won’t matter if employees feel like they’re at constant risk. Make sure you have a clear safety plan in place that addresses screening, testing, prevention measures, as well as a program to ensure employees who get sick have what they need to get better, including time off so they don’t infect others.

Employer Options

Beyond that, employers have many options for helping employees access mental health care:

  1. Offer an Employee Assistance Program
  2. Provide access to mental health resources, including counseling
  3. Get creative: host Zoom-based meditation and exercise sessions
  4. Allow and encourage employees to take time off for self-care
  5. Give employees opportunity and space to discuss their concerns without fear of repercussions

That last point can be surprisingly effective at relieving emotional pressure. “People will feel less stressed just because they don’t have to keep their problems a secret,” Aimee Daramus, a licensed clinical psychologist in Chicago, told the Society for Human Resource Management.

A final word: give employee mental well-being its due, not just lip service. There are a couple of reasons why. First, employee wellness is not secondary to productivity; it’s critical to productivity. In other words, you can offer morning Zoom meditations, but if productivity requirements force employees to work an extra 2 or 3 hours each day, you’re undermining your own efforts.

Second, it’s important to address the root causes, not just symptoms. If there’s an underlying problem, providing an Employee Assistance Program is only a salve, not a cure. For example, if you’re a small or midsize employer that doesn’t offer health coverage or only has limited options available, that will both, directly and indirectly, erode employee well-being. Consider partnering with a PEO or other vendor to gain access to Large Group health plans that offer better coverage and more options.

CoAdvantage, one of the nation’s largest Professional Employer Organizations (PEOs), helps small to mid-sized companies with HR administration, benefits, payroll, and compliance. To learn more about CoAdvantage’s ability to create a strategic HR function in your business that drives business growth potential, contact us today.