Editor’s Note: The author created this blog before the Covid-19 outbreak, but we believe that many of her observations and tactics for addressing employees’ mental wellness stand. Watch this space as the author provides further guidance on managing remote teams in challenging times.
Today’s employee experience is much more than hitting metrics and achieving goals. We must look at the whole person, and be aware that each team member is affected by situations both known and unseen. It’s wonderful to be able to support and influence the healthy physical lifestyles of our people, with gym memberships and nutritious snacks instead of junk food. However, as employers, we must also be proactive about mental wellness, engaging regularly with our workforce to help ensure their personal happiness and employee satisfaction.
Watch for Stress, the Common Denominator
Forcura was able to partner with a local hospital to obtain biometric readings on our employees who wished to participate. Looking at all the issues that could negatively affect mental health, stress was always at the top of the list. Today’s organizations have lofty goals, employees wear multiple hats, and everyone seems to have something else happening in their lives outside of work. From new babies to divorce to landlord issues to financial concerns, there’s no shortage of stress-inducing life events. So how do you know when an employee is under stress? Be a good observer, as you can often pick up some clues:
- Missing work deadlines
- Disengaged in meetings
- Coming in earlier or staying later than usual
- No longer participating in company events
- Uncharacteristically short-tempered with colleagues
Your managers should be trained to watch for these signs of stress, and can either engage the employee one-on-one outside the office (“Let’s have lunch, as you seem like something’s bothering you.”) or refer them to human resources if they want to speak confidentially to a neutral third party. Your goal should be to avoid water-cooler gossip if someone seems out of sorts. With transparency as one of the core values of our company, individuals have often come to me on their own to discuss their life issues. In many cases, people just need a chance to talk and an ear to listen.
Anxiety and depression can also affect the mental wellness of your employees. Be sure you have resources on hand to share with them, and know the warning signs of serious mental illness. Let your employees know that you are always there for them, as early intervention can often diffuse a developing situation before it worsens.
Encourage and Facilitate Mental Wellness Activities
Based on input from my department, the rest of the executive team, and our employees, we’ve developed a number of programs to positively influence the mental wellness of our workforce. Some of them are in the office, making it even easier for employees to participate:
- Monday Meditation > 15 minutes to kick off a new week
- Thankful Thursday > stop work to write a note of gratitude to family, friend or
- Bring Your Child/Children to Work > let your co-workers know about your other
- Last Friday of the Month > bring family and friends for food and fun at end of the day
Of course, physical wellness makes us feel better mentally as well. We offer a generous subsidy to our local YMCA, and sponsor a monthly group fitness class. We’re excited that at least half of our workforce participates in one or more of our wellness initiatives.
Measure and Tweak, Always with Your People in Mind
We understand that one size does not fit all when it comes to mental wellness. That’s why we evaluate our programs, employee satisfaction and employee retention every six months. We use that analysis to identify what our people like and don’t like, or if they need something more. Above all, Forcura wants our employees to know that we understand – and respect – that they have other priorities besides doing a great job for us. We will always invest in their lives, and try to remain leaders in finding ways to encourage and sustain their mental wellness. People deserve to work in a vibrant, connected and caring place!
Jocelyn Donahue is Forcura’s Vice President, People. Jocelyn is certified in Mental Health First Aid, and has also practiced and taught law.