Manager Guide: Boosting Employee Mental Wellness

The past several months have impacted every aspect of our lives. From how we work, take care of our children, and get groceries, the pandemic has often made life more stressful for people. As a manager, you have the ability to help your direct reports during this unprecedented time. By having frequent 1:1 meetings, listening with empathy, and directing employees to helpful resources, you can help them better cope and navigate the rollercoaster of 2020. Read more for answers to common mental health questions, and best practices to support your direct reports during this time.

What’s on employees’ minds right now?

While the pandemic has had a slightly different impact on each person, there are common themes that arise. Most people feel a loss of control, as they cannot influence the trajectory of COVID-19. Additionally, with shelter-in-place and social distancing measures, people are also feeling isolated during this time.

What impact have these stressors had on employees’ mental health?

Recent data from Healthline and YouGov’s COVID-19 tracker confirmed the toll that the pandemic is taking on mental health. According to the data, “Americans are reporting significant and sustained increases in symptoms of depression and anxiety related to the COVID-19 pandemic”. Compared to 2006, there’s been a 32% increase in the number of people that exhibited some form of depression (from 37% to 49%). 

Depression and anxiety are “not always easy to spot,” but depression symptoms can include “feeling sad, empty, or hopeless; having difficulty with day-to-day tasks; increased fatigue; and sleep difficulties”. Anxiety causes people “to worry excessively and find it difficult to control that worry or stop it, even with logic”. 

What should I do as a manager?

While many things are outside of your control – such as the trajectory of the pandemic and the actions that your company will take – you can use this time to build empathy with your direct report, and guide them to resources that may help them. Specifically, we recommend the A, B, C’s of Crisis Management. Read below to learn more about this framework.

A. Ask your employee how they’re doing

Frequent check-ins with your employees help to build feelings of support and connectedness. Specifically, employee-driven 1:1 meetings provide a forum for direct reports to discuss what’s top of mind right now. However, given all of the stress and uncertainty that employees are experiencing, managers should feel empowered to ask questions and propose discussion topics as well. Some questions to help you better understand your employee’s current situation and needs are below:

  • What is top of mind for you right now – either inside or outside of work?
  • Is there anything happening outside of work that you’d like to talk about?
  • Are there any risks to you achieving your goals? 

More tips for 1:1 conversations are available in our Knowledge Center article.

B. Bring up helpful resources

If you learn that a direct report is struggling with mental health, be prepared to talk to the resources that are available. Set up time with a member of your HR team to review resources, which may include:

  • Employee Assistance programs, services, and/or hotlines available from insurance companies
  • Policies on both medical and personal leaves of absence
  • Wellbeing apps and resources, such as Calm and Headspace

The best practice is not to make recommendations to employees, but to let them know what is available, and share a little more information about these programs and policies. 

C. Check-in regularly with your team

There are numerous benefits to having more frequent team meetings during this time. If workers are remote and feeling isolated, video chats with their teammates help drive feelings of connectedness. Team members may also pick up on when someone is stressed, depressed, or struggling. 

Additionally, daily team meetings help employees feel more aligned and in-sync — they have better context on key priorities, and know what their peers are working on.

D. Demystify what is going on

In our recent Employee Sentiment Survey, we learned that many employees would like more consistent communication from leadership. Hopefully, your company is having frequent all-hands meetings to provide more transparency to employees. Regardless, cascading down information – and providing a forum for discussion on major company updates – provides employees with an opportunity to ask questions and share feedback. With more visibility and context, employees are less likely to feel “in the dark” and worry.

E. Empathize

Show understanding and support for the employee’s situation right now. Whether this means accommodating a different work schedule or simply listening to them, any way you can “show up” for employees will be greatly appreciated by them.

For more best practices to help you lead and manage your team, check out Reflektive’s blog posts for managers.