COVID-19: How to protect employee mental health

Safeguarding employees' mental health should be a top priority for all leaders

COVID-19: How to protect employee mental health

Safeguarding employees’ mental health should be a top priority for all leaders – but in these uncertain times, it’s become a paramount concern.

This is the time for empathy. HR now has a responsibility to foster a culture of connectivity, caring, and communication, in order to dispel employee angst.

HRD Canada spoke to Dr. Jarik Conrad, Sr. Director of Human Insights and HCM Evangelism at Ultimate Software and a speaker at Ultimate’s upcoming webcast on mental health.

Dr. Conrad revealed some of the best ways to identify people who may be struggling with their mental and emotional wellbeing during the COVID-19 (coronavirus) crisis.

“People oftentimes do as much as they can to mask what’s going on under the surface, especially when it comes to mental health,” explained Dr. Conrad. “Employers should be looking out for people who are not quite on their game. For example, perhaps they’re inconsistent with things that they’re usually consistent with. They might be very dependable employees – then, suddenly, they start to miss deadlines or drift off in meetings. The key is to watch out for subtle behavioural changes.”

So, what can employers do to ensure their employees feel connected, respected, and supported during the coronavirus pandemic? According to Dr. Conrad, the seeds should have already been sown by vigilant employers.

“Firstly, I’d like to point out that those employers who have already demonstrably invested in their employees have a huge leg up on everybody else going into this,” he prefaced. “They’re in a much better position. Otherwise, I think communication is really important, as are regular updates about how the company is doing and what the future looks like. It’s important to be as open and transparent as possible – even with the bad news. I know we don’t really want to share negative updates, but sometimes the bad news is not as bad as what people think it could be if left to their own imaginations.”

Dr. Conrad also advocates for letting employees know that it’s okay to step away from their home office.

“Be flexible,” he continued. “Your people may have to work odd hours, or they may have to look after young children. It’s important to be amenable. Offer your support where you can and let employees know that you’re there for them. We’re all in this together – I think that’s really important for everyone to grasp.”

To hear more from Dr. Conrad on how to practice empathy during COVID-19, sign up for Ultimate’s upcoming webcast here.

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