For many of us, the start of another week means trudging downstairs to a make-shift office, in our sweats, with the dog following close behind. It means balancing 8th grade algebra and 5th grade spelling tests in the middle of Zoom calls and emails to clients. It means a routine that is casual but boring. It means anxiety every time we turn on the news or look at the notifications flashing across our phones. It means cooking every meal, stocking up on hand sanitizer and coming up with a contingency plan in case the grocery store is still out of toilet paper. It means walking out of the house with our keys, our wallet, our phone and yes, our mask. This is what we have been doing for almost a year now and quite frankly, the novelty has worn off. We are living in a world overwhelmed by an international health crisis, incredible political unrest and acts of hate never before experienced by our generation. In short, it is impossible for our current situation not to be taking a toll on our mental health. Even the strongest among us are suffering.
When we think of company wellness programs we often jump right to diet plans, exercise routines and biometrics. While all of these are no doubt important, programs focused on our physical health almost always take precedence. Now, more than ever, we need to reframe our thinking and make mental health a priority. In fact, this is the perfect time to do so since the stigma attached to seeking support for depression and anxiety has lessened due to a universal understanding that this year has been incredibly difficult. Everyone has dealt with loss; the loss of a loved one, the loss of a job, the loss of the freedom to safely go where we’d like, the loss of routine and maybe most significantly, the loss of our sense of security.
So what can an employer do to help its employees cope? Thankfully, a lot! First and foremost, adopt policies which encourage a healthy work-life balance, thereby lowering stress. Consider allowing telecommuting and flexible hours. Encourage employees to take short breaks during the day and set boundaries for working from home. For example, if you previously wouldn’t have expected emails to be answered on weekends make sure employees know this is still the case, even though there is now easy access to work accounts at home.
Secondly, for employees who are physically coming to work, listen to their concerns and act on them. Communicate rules around social distancing, mask-wearing, temperature checks, etc. Set up schedules for conference rooms and eating areas. Invest in extra cleaning services and set up hand sanitizer stations. Your employees are the heart of your company so their concerns must be addressed, no matter how minor they may seem.
In addition to these actions, consider implementing programs that support mental health. One-on-one health coaching is perhaps the most effective way to truly help your employees, as it addresses issues that are personally significant to the participant. It can be argued that every one of us could benefit from a chat. Think about it. Have you ever been upset or stressed but once you talk to someone you feel better? That person didn’t “fix” your problem. In fact, nothing regarding your problem has changed. What changed is your outlook and your ability to cope with it. Sometimes it just feels good to have someone listen. Coaching provides that ear plus the expertise and resources to deliver legitimate help. People who are emotionally well are happier, healthier and better able to function on both a personal and professional level. Investing in the mental health of your employees not only benefits the individual but it benefits the company as a whole. It’s a win-win.
Corporate Fitness & Health, Diversified Group’s wellness company, has seen a huge uptick in the implementation and utilization of their coaching program over the last year and is proud of the number of people they continue to help. Coaching sessions are virtual so employees can talk in the privacy of their own homes. Topics discussed and the level of support provided is based entirely on the individual and his/her needs. Some participants want information about at-home workouts and diet-plans. Some ask for stress management tips and others need real, one-on-one depression/anxiety support. Whatever the request, coaching allows people to be heard and their feelings to be acknowledged. This alone contributes greatly to emotional well-being.
While coaching offers the most personal touch, there are other ways to bring mental health support into the workplace. Things like seminars, guided meditations, yoga classes and mental health assessments can help individuals navigate these stressful times. By offering your employees this type of support you are showing that you care about all aspects of their health. You are also setting the stage for a post-COVID world when our mental outlook is undoubtedly better but there are still people in need of help. Putting programs in place now will ensure that they are in place for those who need them in the future.
This year, set a goal for your wellness program to make mental health a priority knowing that, by doing so, you will not be dismissing physical health. In fact, quite the opposite since the first has a direct effect on the second. Less stress means lower blood pressure. Happiness means less comfort-eating. Confidence means more motivation to exercise. Less anxiety means better sleep and better sleep means lower risk for chronic conditions. It’s all connected. Focus on emotional health and the rest will fall into place.
Consider this quote by Dr. Seuss; “Sometimes you will never know the value of a moment until it becomes a memory.” Today is that moment. These are tough times, and the moment has come to trust change, challenge the norm and support your employees in new and relevant ways.
Please feel free to reach out to Diversified Group or Corporate Fitness & Health for more information on bringing mental/emotional support to your employees.
Diversified Group: 888-322-2524
Corporate Fitness & Health: firstname.lastname@example.org or 800-423-5591