Why Emotional Well-being at Work Matters More Now Than Ever
Coming into 2020, mental health was already a top concern for many employers. Nearly 47 million Americans are impacted by mental health conditions — and even more struggle with challenges that impact their mental well-being.
The full effects COVID-19 will have on our mental health has yet to be seen. However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say that fear and anxiety about a disease can be overwhelming, causing strong emotions in adults and children.
Our mental health includes our emotional, psychological and social well-being, according to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. It impacts how we think, feel and act.
Right now, many of us are struggling to manage our emotions. One day we feel optimistic, like we’re making the best of things. The next, we might feel angry. Then we might feel paralyzed by fear of the unknown. Or even lethargic after living what feels like the same day over and over again at home.
Here’s why emotions are running so high right now and how employers can help improve emotional well-being at work:
Employees are feeling overwhelmed by the double-shift of managing their work and home lives simultaneously.
Each person’s home life may look different, but one thing is for certain: Any built-in boundaries that may have existed between work and home are now non-existent. For many, work and home are now one in the same. Your employees might be juggling kids, aging parents, or the high-spirited new puppy they just adopted from a local shelter. Before, these responsibilities may have felt like a second-shift after work, but now, employees are really performing a double-shift, which is emotionally and physically exhausting.
How Employers Can Help:
- Start off the conversation by asking how they’re doing — how they’re really doing. Checking in with people makes them feel seen. It also helps them to feel like they can talk about their emotions openly, without feeling like they have to mask them.
- Encourage employees to take breaks to refill their cup — literally and figuratively. Did you know that even mild dehydration can impact a person’s mood, energy level and ability to think clearly? Remind employees to stay hydrated, drinking eight, 8-ounce glasses of water daily. Additionally, coffee may be our morning go-to, but be careful not to overdo it. Studies show that more than 250 milligrams of caffeine (the amount in roughly 2.5 cups of coffee) may cause anxiety in some people.
- Look out for people keeping unsustainable work hours. Without a doubt, people are going to need flexibility right now. The Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM) suggests staying on top of employee productivity right now — but not for the reasons you might think. It’s not in terms of the company’s success, but for employee well-being. If someone is firing off emails at 2 a.m. and then showing up for an 8:30 a.m. meeting, they’re likely not getting adequate sleep, which can impact their emotional state. Encourage managers to look out for employees who might be struggling and ask how they can help support them.
- Train managers to spot signs of domestic violence. Several cities saw an increase in domestic violence cases or calls to local hotlines since COVID-19, CNN reported. Some of the signs include constantly being worried about making their partner angry, unexplained marks or injuries, they seem depressed or anxious or you notice a sudden change in their personality. You might consider sharing the National Domestic Violence Hotline companywide: 1-800-799-SAFE (7233).
Employees are feeling anxious about their job security.
The total number of first-time unemployment claims reached 30.3 million in a six-week period, which represents roughly 18.6 percent of the U.S. workforce. Employees are scared that they may be next, which can make them feel like they’re standing on uncertain ground.
How Employers Can Help:
- Be honest about what you know and what you don’t know. We can’t predict the future — or else we would have bought a lot more toilet paper coming into 2020. We can, however, be transparent and honest with the information we do have, which earns employee trust.
- Share mindfulness exercises with your team. Mindfulness techniques — including deep breathing — encourages us to live in the present moment, which can help calm our anxieties about the future. Don’t have the budget for employee mindfulness resources right now? We’ve got you. We recently shared this free, grounding meditation from Aduro’s own coach Janssen.
- Connect your employees with mental health resources. Remind them of the benefits your company offers right now that can help them manage their anxiety and fear of the unknown. Maybe that includes therapy, coaching, meditation, or yoga. These practices can all help them focus on the things that are within their control, rather than spending their already depleted time and energy on the things that aren’t.
Employees are feeling lonely.
We’re wired for companionship, as neuroscientist John Cacioppo pointed out. Social distancing added another layer of emotional challenges to COVID-19, as many people stayed home by themselves. Although some states are slowly opening back up, others are still shut down. This can also cause feelings of resentfulness, as people might be seeing photos of their out-of-state family and friends socializing, while they’re cooped up at home alone.
How Employers Can Help:
- Schedule a virtual bi-weekly meet-up with team members. Video chats can start to feel a little monotonous, especially if your employees use them to meet all day long. Break things up by letting the group pick an activity to do during the next team meeting. Maybe it’s something as simple as attending one of Mo Willems’ “Lunch Doodles” sessions, where he teaches kids and adults to draw some of the characters from his children’s books. Anyone can do it, it gets your mind off of the stresses of life, and it will very likely result in a few good laughs.
- Support a local nonprofit virtually. When you lift someone else’s spirits, you tend to feel lighter as well. Consider having each team at your company select a local nonprofit they’d like to help support virtually. It might be a virtual diaper drive to help babies living in poverty or crisis right now. You could make it a competition amongst all the groups to see who can donate the most diapers. Or each of your team members could record a virtual story time, which later gets shared with a young child facing homelessness.
- Get moving in virtual groups. A new phenomenon called “Dance Church” is an all-abilities movement class that allows everyone to feel comfortable in their own skin. (Read: You don’t have to move like Shakira or J-Lo to fit in.) More than 10,000 people stream these virtual dance classes, which have nothing to do with religion, but will make you believe in the power of dance.
Supporting emotional well-being at work is one way to show employees that you care about them as people. That support can help get them through this difficult time — and it’s something they’ll remember long after it’s over.