While mental health in the workplace should always be a priority, it is even more important now that we are a year into a global pandemic. Millions of people have seen their depression and anxiety intensify because of social isolation, stress about family members’ health, grief, financial worries, and more, while some are experiencing mental health problems for the first time. A study by the Society for Human Resource Management done in May showed that more than 65% of employees in the US sometimes experience symptoms of depressions, while 22-35% experience symptoms of depression often. Leaders in IT can take steps, however, to increase support for their employees and improve the mental health of their teams. Below are some steps to prioritize mental health in the workplace.
Be Open About Mental Health and Raise Awareness
The first step you can take to prioritize mental health in the workplace is to talk freely about mental health concerns. If you are open about your feelings and anxieties, your employees will feel more secure speaking out about their mental health problems and will be more likely to seek help. It is also important to raise awareness. Not everyone who suffers from a mental health concern has a formal diagnosis or even realizes they have an issue at all. One reason for this is that there is still a lot of stigma surrounding mental health, especially among men. People may feel ashamed, embarrassed, or weak, which leads them to ignore their problems. Others just might not know much about mental health. Providing access to educational resources can help raise awareness and increase understanding of mental health in the workplace.
Regular check-ins are particularly important right now because so many IT professionals are working from home. With in-office employees, you can often sense when one of your team members is struggling. They may seem moodier or more lethargic, for example. It can be harder to tell when remote employees are struggling because you don’t see them in person. Make a point to talk to remote employees on a regular basis to see if they have any concerns. You don’t want to be pushy about it, however. You just want to indicate to your team that you understand this is a stressful time for a lot of people and that you empathize with them. You should also make it clear that there are resources available for team members them through HR including telehealth options.
Encourage Work-Life Balance
Many professionals have lost a sense of balance during the pandemic. Many are working from home while taking care of kids and overseeing schooling. Encourage your team to maintain a healthy work-life balance and be understanding about their increased responsibilities. They may need more flexibility in their schedule, more breaks, more time off, etc. When your employees have work-life balance, they tend to be less stressed and more well rested, which are both beneficial to mental health.
The pandemic has had a negative affect on mental health across the nation. It is crucial for leaders to make mental health a priority to avoid burnout and to maintain employee engagement. As a leader, you can help by making the workplace a safe place to discuss mental health, providing your team members with education and resources, and showing compassion during these challenging times.
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