5 Strategies for Supporting Your Team’s Mental Health as They Return to Work

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, a lot of emphasis has been placed on keeping our employees and customers physically healthy and safe. But the pandemic has created a mental health impact too, as many Americans have experienced increased anxiety during the past year.

If you’re a business owner or leader, then you’ve probably spent a lot of time thinking about employee mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic. And if not, it’s definitely something to keep in mind as it’s likely that at least some of your employees have struggled with their mental health during the past year.

In fact, a recent Benefit News study found that two-thirds of employees have anxiety about returning to the workplace. And while some of that may be unavoidable, there are tactics you can use to promote mental health at your company and make this transition a little easier. 

How to Support Mental Health of Employees Following COVID-19

Now that many offices are reopening after more than a year of work in a virtual environment, it is important to support your team through this time of transition.

Here are some ideas to help:

1. Create Channels for Employee Feedback

When creating a plan for return to work, it’s important to make sure your employees feel heard. Each person at your company had a unique experience with the pandemic and unique levels of caution, so don’t assume that you know what they’re comfortable with. 

Surveys and regular check-ins with direct reports are both great ways to open up a dialogue with your team and allow them to weigh in on your reopening strategy. 

And if you do decide to make in-person work mandatory, this Inc. article suggests that you should be sure to let your employees know who they can reach out to with any questions or concerns. 

2. Communicate Your Policies Clearly

Did you know that your communication skills as a leader can directly impact your team’s mental health? In a study with Qualtrics and SAP, Harvard Business Review found that employees who felt their managers were not good communicators were 23% more likely to experience mental health declines during COVID-19. 

As your policies and expectations will likely change in the coming months, be sure to communicate those changes as clearly as possible, while still being transparent about things that are still unknown or may change in the future. 

If you’re creating new safety protocols, such as spreading out workspaces, implementing new cleaning procedures, or requiring PPE, make sure you’re communicating those up front as well. This will help reassure employees who are still concerned about catching COVID-19 and give guidance to those who are unsure about what to expect when they return to the office. 

And don’t forget to put your policies in writing, as well.

3. Talk About Mental Health Regularly 

When employee mental health is supported, the entire company benefits. And for many people, the number one thing companies can do is to actively communicate about the mental health resources they offer their employees

If you offer an Employee Assistance Program or other mental health resources, now is a great time to start talking about those with your team. And at the leadership level, you may want to implement training programs to help managers recognize the signs of emotional distress and provide the appropriate support.

4. Set the Example for Your Team

You may not always realize how much your actions impact company culture, but your example can really set the tone when it comes to self care and mental health. 

By building healthy habits like not replying to emails on the weekend or taking time off to spend time with family, you can create an environment where employees feel that it’s okay for them to do the same, Inc. suggests.

5. Find Creative Ways to Foster Connection

Though it might be too early in some parts of the country to start hosting big celebrations or company-wide happy hours, it’s still important to help your employees build relationships and connection. 

Even small steps, like an office-wide snack time with pre-packaged snacks or a socially distanced yoga or mindfulness class, can help employees feel more engaged in the workplace culture. 

Plus, research shows that employees who have strong relationships in the office are less likely to be impacted by stress, so don’t be afraid to get creative and find new ways to help your employees get to know each other! 

Prioritize Mental Health for an Engaged Workplace

While mental health might not be the number one item on your office re-entry checklist, it’s important to keep mental health in mind as employees return to your facility.

Not only does prioritizing mental health show that you care about your team, it also translates to increased productivity and employee retention. 

We hope these tips will help you as your team readjusts to working together in your facility once again.