INVNT CEO & [INVNT GROUP] COO, Kristina McCoobery shares insight on safeguarding employees’ mental health.
There’s no denying the pandemic has affected the mental health of Americans. The KFF COVID-19 Vaccine Monitor from March 2021, for example, reveals that 47 percent of adults are experiencing negative mental health impacts as a result of the pandemic.
Employers who are invested in their people and culture will have introduced new initiatives, practices, and ways of working to support their employees during this disruptive time. Now as discussions about returning to offices, attending in-person events, and getting back on the road emerge – and with May being Mental Health Awareness Month – it’s important leaders update their policies to ensure they account for the many changes associated with returning to this new normal.
Accept that no two situations or schedules are the same
We secured new headquarters in New York during the pandemic. Pre COVID, we were expanding quickly and recognized the need to scale up. We officially moved in last month, and have seen a steady flow of employees come and work from the office a few days a week over the last few weeks. Many have missed the routine of coming to an office, some craved social interaction, and a number of our project teams find it more productive to brainstorm and create in a face-to-face environment.
Others haven’t come back in at all yet, and that’s okay. Our policy has not been to make the return to a physical office the requirement at the moment. We understand that our people thrive in different environments and have different responsibilities, and this has never been truer during (and as we transition out of) the pandemic.
Many of our employees relocated away from our office bases as the pandemic became a reality, so we’re working with them to provide guidance and timelines to return to these cities, as well as determine whether shifting to remote working permanently may be the best option for them. We’ve also introduced a number of culture shifts, including encouraging employees to avoid scheduling internal meetings between 12 pm on Fridays and 12 pm on Mondays, so that everyone gets a break. ‘Respect the weekend’ is a practice we ask them to preach too – unless it’s time-sensitive, our people avoid sending emails to colleagues during this time.
It’s important to understand that no two situations are the same right now and that working with employees one-to-one to understand them is the key to a productive and happy workforce.
Create and communicate a feedback culture to monitor mental health
Doing away with the traditional top-down leadership style will work wonders not just in 2021, but beyond. A feedback culture model encourages employees, irrespective of their seniority level, to share their thoughts and concerns with their managers on a regular basis (it’s standard operating procedure for our managers to conduct weekly or bi-weekly one-to-one meetings with their direct reports), rather than wait until their annual reviews. This type of continuous feedback model ensures issues are addressed ongoing, and that they do not grow into something bigger or exacerbate underlying mental health or other matters.
It’s important leaders walk the talk here too, by practicing it with their own direct reports, reminding them to be accessible to their teams and encouraging them to share their thoughts and feedback with them on a regular basis, and advocating for it during company-wide and other meetings.
Make the work meaningful
We’re most fulfilled when we’re doing work that we know is making a difference. Ensuring you assign your people to projects and clients where they do their best work is great, but it’s important to look beyond this.
Get them involved in internal initiatives that boost morale, such as the company’s sustainability policy or Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion committee, and align your organization with charities that are both seeking volunteers to support on the ground, and the expertise of your people.
We partner with non-profits not only based on the great work they do but on our ability to make a real difference through the provision of event production and broader marketing services. We know we can deliver the most value to charities in these areas, and it also enables our people to apply their skills to fulfilling projects where they can give back.
Mental health awareness and advocacy has improved over the last decade, but the pandemic has brought with it several new sensitivities and factors for leaders to consider. So when addressing these in the workplace right now, a personalized, compassionate approach is essential as we transition out of the pandemic.
Read the original article on ForbesBooks here.