Indeed, COVID-19 has greatly affected the mental health of workers everywhere, including employers and managers. Bupa Global’s study on the wellbeing of executives shows that 78% of business leaders suffered from poor mental health during the pandemic, with 31% having difficulty talking about it and 32% holding off seeking help. These findings reflect the importance for business leaders to prioritize taking care of themselves in order to do the same for their teams. But what exactly can they do to keep their mental wellbeing in-check?
Our CEO, Suresh Kumar DN previously emphasized in his article “5 Ways to Protect Employee Well-being During a Crisis” how beneficial it is to set flexible working hours in achieving better work-life balance. This way, employers and employees can alter working habits to fit personal needs, such as those related to family, religion, community, and their own individual needs.
Making time for breaks, like getting some fresh air or going for a short walk, can make a huge difference in fighting off stress no matter how small they may seem. Amy Quarton-Dambacher, who serves as associate instructor on Maryville University’s online organizational leadership degree program, points out that you can counter pessimistic thinking with small habits like meditation and yoga. These have been proven to alleviate stress and calm the mind, helping you steer your thoughts towards positive things. But if this seems a bit too challenging, then Quarton-Dambacher also recommends just getting the negative thoughts out of your head and onto paper or your phone. “Write in a journal or make voice recordings on a smart device,” Quarton-Dambacher told NBC News. “You don’t have to keep your entries; the goal is to express your thoughts and feelings in a safe environment instead of dwelling on them.” This way, you can have an outlet through which you can release unwanted stress.
Teams must take advantage of collaborative working platforms in order to maintain productivity even when physically distant from each other. Find out what works for your team by trying out tools like Microsoft Teams, Zoom, and Skype. Maximize these tools by using them not only for delivering the required work output, but also for regular team check-ins. Schedule weekly chats just to talk about anything not related to work to establish a friendly atmosphere. This will mean a lot to people when they are somewhat isolated. And it can be a helpful channel especially for those who find it difficult to talk about mental health.
Alison Holman, a professor at University of California studying trauma-related mental and physical health, recommends creating a safe space for teams, especially for people who tend to not speak up. It can be somewhere they can express their thoughts and feelings. For example, a private channel on Slack can be created just for this purpose, where mental health resources can be shared, other than for holding regular team chats. This way, everyone is assured that talking about mental health is encouraged anytime, anywhere.
Encouraging your team, including yourself, to make Wellness Action Plans (WAP) can help promote active participation in maintaining a healthy wellbeing. Mind.org’s working-from-home WAP could be a good place to start for team members to think of ways they can help themselves and others at the same time. It’s not only for those with existing mental health issues; it’s also for those who’d like to stay mentally healthy as well.
If there’s an existing mental wellness program in the company, make sure everybody knows about it. Promote the program by making use of it yourself and sharing how it helps you. It may involve counselling sessions or physical workouts held online. In addition, encourage suggestions for more activities that can help improve the program.
Taking care of your team calls for taking care of yourself first as their leader. Only then can you encourage your team to fight off mental health challenges together by looking out for each other.