Employers have learned a lot about their employees’ resilience and ability to innovate since March 2020.
We’ve learned that humans are pretty incredible in that they can continue to work – and even thrive – under extreme pressure. However, just because they can doesn’t mean they should.
While short-term stress can temporarily enhance performance (think about a time when you did some of your best work under a tight deadline), long-term stress can have a deleterious influence and negatively affect physical and mental health.
The effects of the pandemic continue, and people are exhausted. We have already seen an increase in burnout and mental health concerns across all industries. Employers need to provide employees with the support they need to be healthy. Failure to do so will result in a loss of productivity, increased disability management, and higher employee turnover rates.
Flexibility is important for your physical and mental health. I’m not suggesting all leaders should embrace yoga (although that’s not a bad idea!) but I am saying we need to drop some of our rigidity when it comes to how work gets done.
We know now that working from home, hybrid work arrangements and non-traditional work hours can be successful. Consider finding ways to offer your employees more flexibility. Start by asking what would be most beneficial for their physical and mental well-being and proceed from there.
Provide Real Support
Unless you work in a mental health practice, the odds are that your leaders and HR team are not trained mental health professionals. Enlist the support and help of those who are. Increase the amount of funding directed specifically toward employee use of mental health resources.
Build a Strong Foundation
A strong foundation isn’t just about doing planks at the gym to build your core strength; every team needs a strong foundation to function effectively. You can build a stronger foundation by:
- Having honest and respectful communication amongst all team members about work expectations;
- Initiating conversations and providing actionable solutions around topics like boundaries and mental health; and
- Clearly identifying options and processes for an individual to request accommodation or exceptions for extenuating circumstances.
From Marathon to (Occasional) Sprint
It’s time to pull your team out of the exhausting marathon that the pandemic hurled them into. They are tired, drained and overwhelmed. No one can do their best work when they feel that way. Instead of asking them to “dig deep” or “push a little harder,” let them rest.
Encourage time off, when possible. Do not promote the expectation that they work outside their normal hours, especially without appropriate compensation. Amend deliverables and project timelines accordingly. We know that these types of limits can help improve productivity, creativity and overall work performance. And then, when the time comes that you do need them to sprint, they’ll be ready!
Finally, remember that supporting mental health is a team effort. Think of it as a relay race where we all contribute in equal but different ways. And if you need an anchor for your team, pass the baton to AccessHR! We have a variety of human resources advisory and leader support services that can help.