COVID-19 has flipped employee wellness on its head

by Oct 20, 2020

Most of us have been working from home for months, which has created a myriad of new obstacles amid the pandemic. Kids are (always) home. Uncertainty about the future. Glitchy Zoom meetings. Financial concerns. Inability to collaborate in person. Lack of interaction with friends and family. Stressful grocery store visits. Fear of contracting the virus. A dog that thinks your being home means walks and belly rubs every hour. Endless news cycles about the state of our country — and the world. Did we mention uncertainty?

The list goes on, and we have all felt it for months now. And it can seem impossible to objectively address the non-work stressors that are interrupting our professional lives on a seemingly daily basis. With zero separation between offices and living rooms, it’s more challenging than ever to strike a work-life balance and unplug at the end of the day. Compassion and, as much as we are all tired of hearing it, “We are in this together” mentality has never been more important.

Mental-health struggles have risen in the last few months. According to the CDC, 40% of U.S. adults identified as struggling with mental-health issues in late June. 40%! That’s nearly half of the adult population. Words used in the study include: anxiety, stress, emotions, and depression. This isn’t a time to shy away from supporting your employees; more than ever before, it’s a time to lean in to the discomfort and embrace empathy in the workplace.

So how can you speak to your employees as a supervisor but also as a human being? How can you remain professional but also approach the situation in an authentic way? Here are some ideas…

  • Be personable. Put a personalized spin on employee-facing emails. Share how your department is doing. Share how you’re doing. Throw in some helpful tips for working at home. Share an interesting article you read that week.
  • Be transparent and honest. Let people know what they’re up against so they can prepare accordingly. If someone in the company contracts COVID-19, tell your employees and provide a plan for remediation. If there are budget cuts, tell your employees. If the office is re-opening soon, share what the cleaning and social-distancing protocols will be. Transparency can be refreshing … even if it’s bad news.
  • Be an open door. If you can, designate someone to operate a COVID-19-specific email address.
  • Be flexible. People are juggling a lot right now, especially as the holidays approach. They need to know it’s okay to dash to the store if Clorox wipes are back in stock, and they need to know it’s okay to take a personal day.
  • Be there for department leaders. Lean on them to check in with their teams and see how everyone is doing on a weekly basis. Encourage them to create a safe space for employees to communicate their work-related concerns.
  • Be proactive with a wellness program. Companies like Sonic Boom are here to help improve the well-being of everyone at your company. To combat the rise of COVID-19, we offer mental-health resources in partnership with Healbright, as well as optional lifestyle-coaching programs for our members. Partnering with a corporate-wellness company can also help boost morale, engagement, and social connectivity among your employees.

Most importantly, cut yourself some slack, too. Balancing operations and a global pandemic is unprecedented (another buzzword this year), so you’re already doing something extremely challenging. And be patient with yourself. Empathy doesn’t come naturally for everyone, but sometimes simply sending an “I’m here if you need me” email does the trick.