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Last month was Mental Health Awareness month, but there has been an increased incidence of behavioral health symptoms since the start of the pandemic. Be observant and take steps to offer support to your employees who need assistance.

In the U.S., we work hard and don’t have as much paid time off as workers in other countries, such as those in the European Union. This affects our work-life balance, a key factor in preventing burnout. Mental health, work-life balance and burnout are all interrelated, and so not surprisingly, mental illness and burnout have become prevalent in the workforce.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, one in five adults in the U.S. has a mental illness. Some people affected by the pandemic already had such mental health issues as anxiety, depression or seasonal affective disorder. Stress caused by the pandemic exacerbated the problem, and ongoing mental health treatment may have become more difficult to access.

Surveys have found that employees felt more burned out during the pandemic, were less interested in socializing with friends and had more trouble sleeping, while managers said they were working longer hours. Both groups were more stressed than they had been before the coronavirus.

Providing support

The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) recommends some ways Human Resources professionals can provide support for the mental well-being of employees and offset the effects of the pandemic in the workplace:

  • Be connected: Check in regularly with employees working from home through calls or video.
  • Be responsive: Answer calls and respond to emails quickly to ensure the employees know HR is a resource that is available to them.
  • Promote engagement: Encourage managers to have weekly meetings with employees.
  • Spread the word about EAPs: Let your employees know about the company’s employee assistance program or mental health services through a companywide email.
  • Watch for signs of problems: When checking in with employees, pay attention to any signs of depressive language, lack of sleep or feeling overworked. Be prepared to give them information about the company’s employee assistance program.
  • Provide flexibility: During the past year, many people have faced the challenges of working from home, illness, isolation and overseeing children at home or school. Encourage managers to allow flexibility in work schedules, when possible, to ease the stress for employees.
  • Show vulnerability: Acknowledge that the pandemic has been difficult for you, too, and assure employees you will get through it together.

Some surveys have found that a hybrid of in-person and at-home work helps reduce stress and isolation. Working from home can improve mental wellness and reduce burnout.

Women typically have more stress than men because they usually are responsible for running the household and child care, along with their responsibilities at work.

Lonely workers

An online survey on Loneliness and the Workplace, conducted by Ipsos Polling and released by Cigna Health Corporation, found a correlation between work and loneliness. Workers without good relationships with co-workers or a healthy work-life balance were lonelier than their co-workers.

Loneliness costs a company money. Lonely employees are more likely to miss work because of illness or stress, are less productive, have a lower quality of work and think about quitting their job more than twice as often as employees who aren’t lonely, according to the survey.

Employers have to be observant so they know when to offer support to employees. Make sure you have programs in place to help and give workers the time off they need as well. It shouldn’t be seen as a stigma for employees to ask for help when they need it.

Employee assistance programs are a start, but they’re often used to address a mental health issue after it has become a crisis. Check to see whether the company health plan offers counseling or other mental health services.

Some workers, particularly younger employees, paused during the past year and reconsidered what they are seeking in work benefits. They’re more interested in health plans that include mental health services, as well as things such as pet insurance, than previous generations. When it’s time for benefits renewal, bring the voice of your employees to the table. Find out what type of benefits they’re interested in through surveys, talks during lunches or meetings.

Employers must normalize taking steps to seek help. Have the conversation with workers before the situation becomes a crisis. Provide a confidential environment in which employees can share their concerns without having to worry about colleagues’ perceptions.

50+ Job Seekers schedule

The 50+ Latino/Hispanic Job Seekers Group and MassHire Bilingual Workshops, which are presented in both English and Spanish, meet the third Wednesday of the month, from 1 to 3 p.m. Advance registration is required.

We also offer workshop and networking sessions. All sessions are virtual.

The Interactive Workshop Series schedule is:

  • First and third Mondays, 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.
  • Second and fourth Tuesdays, 10 a.m. to noon.
  • Second and fourth Fridays, 1 to 3 p.m.

Greater Lowell Workshops & Networking Group:

  • First and third Wednesdays, 9:30 to 11:30 a.m.

G2G Networking Sessions:

  • First and third Tuesdays, 10 to 11:30 a.m.

Speed Coaching:

  • Second and fourth Mondays, 10 a.m. to noon.

Guest Speaker Series sessions, which also require advance registration, are held the second and fourth Thursday of the month from 10 a.m. to noon. This month’s sessions are:

  • Panel event: Reinvention After 50+, Thursday, June 10.
  • Age-Friendly Employer Event: Interview Practice, Thursday, June 24.

The virtual doors open 15 minutes before the program starts. Pre-registration for first-time participants and advance registration is at https://50plusjobseekers.org/outreach/registration/.

Those who are already registered with the program will receive an email about the 50+ Job Seekers workshops.

On hiatus

 I’m taking a break from my talk show, “Connections Count,” on Unity Radio 97.9 FM.  Stay tuned for more information.

Reach out

To contact me, download my digital business card by texting HRPRO to 21000 or email me at melody@melodybeachconsulting.com.

AFFILIATED ORGANIZATIONS

Northeast Human Resources Association (NEHRA)
Northeast Human Resources Association (NEHRA)
Webster Dudley Business Alliance (WDBA)
AARP (American Association of Retired Persons)
PARWCC The Professional Association of Resume Writers & Career Coaches Woman in Business (WIB)
Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce
BNI Referral Champions Worcester Chapter
Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM)
Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce
Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce
50+ Job Seekers
Massachusetts Councils on Aging (MCOA)
Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce
Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce
Human Resources Management Association (HRMA) of Central Massachusetts
Women's Information Network (WIN)
Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce
Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce

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Melody L. Beach Consulting Group, Human Resources, Southbridge, MA