From longer work hours (healthcare) to increased demands at home (kids home and at virtual school), the COVID-19 pandemic introduced new stressors to every aspect of life. These stressors are persistent and indefinite, heightening the risk of employee burnout.
APA’s 2021 Work and Well-being Survey found that, in the month before the study, 79% of respondents had work-related stress.
As of February 2021, according to Indeed, 59% of Millennials, 58% of Gen Z, 54% of Gen X (54%) and 31%of Baby Boomers (31%) were experiencing high burnout.
The World Health Organization (WHO) recognized “Burnout syndrome,” a diagnosis defined as a “syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.”
On top of that, there’s anxiety, or the body’s reaction to an unknown or uncertain outcome. There is, however, a difference between feeling anxious and having an anxiety disorder. Symptoms of anxiety disorders greatly interfere with someone’s ability to function at their best for extended periods of time.
Therefore, to overcome these challenges, the workplace must work to bring a mental health initiative into the workplace.
Combatting Workplace Anxiety, Burnout, and Stress
You might be thinking, “How to I even begin to do this?”
The answer: Through compassionate managers, new policies, developing an accepting and inclusive culture, and training employees to recognize mental health issues and manage stress appropriately.
Let’s break each of those down.
Compassionate managers are key.
Laura Brednich, CEO of HR Company Store, told Entrepreneur, “Supervisors want to help, but because of all the laws surrounding HIPAA and privacy, they are not sure what they can and cannot say to an employee.”
Conversations about mental health can be hard, but here’s your chance to train managers on the skills they need – coaching skills, emotional intelligence, and active listening, to name a few. Managers are also the first line of defense, so to say, as they meet one on one with employees. These managers need to be open and honest to create a safe space for employee dialogue.
- Encouraging employees to take stress management courses, yoga, or meditation classes
- Encourage employees to take regular breaks, especially in a remote environment
- Offer wellness programs like daily exercise, or encourage the pursuit of hobbies
Before we get too into the weeds about employee mental health training, it’s important to talk about mental health days.
Mental health days are really needed.
Science says there are lots of good reasons to take a day off to recover one’s mental health. Alison Ross, a psychologist and professor at City College of New York, told US News and World Report that employees should “carve out ‘me time’ that includes taking time to do something pleasurable. This can include taking a mental health day off from their job.”
The frequency at which mental health days are being taken can reveal something about the mental health of your employees.
Develop mental health inclusive policies.
Having clear mental health policies serves as a preventative measure and inform staff on how to handle issues that do arise. Examples of some policies include: your organization’s stance on discrimination, bullying, and harassment, the consequences of those actions, using inclusive vocabulary, and safety measures.
Having these in place speaks to the effort a company is willing to put into their metal health care and initiatives.
Create an open, inclusive culture.
Consider this: A coworker has a mental illness that they can speak freely about at home. However, they come into the office or sign on for the day and they hear no one talk about mental health, or they do so negatively. That employee now feels conflicted – they can’t be their authentic self at work and it’s an added stress.
That’s not fun for anyone. However, through education and open discussion, your organization can break down the stigma surrounding mental health, thus allowing for employees to be open and honest about their experiences and your organization further establishes a culture of acceptance and inclusivity!
Training is the most important step.
Employees who don’t know how to manage stress will inevitably burn out, and employees who do know how to manage stress will maintain higher productivity and performance by avoiding burnout.
In addition to training managers on how to discuss mental health, it should be a priority for organizations who want to improve the mental health of their employees to provide training on stress management techniques.
Teaching employees about the risks of poor mental health, along with strategies to recognize situations that may harm employee mental health is a great start, but teaching employees how to manage their own stress will make the difference.
Check out our mental health playlist that talks about alleviating anxiety at work, warning signs of a mental health crisis, and even a guided meditation.
Here is a sample of our microlearning video style from a mental health course.
Other important soft skills to train employees on are:
This initiative is no longer a nice to have. It’s a need to have. With The Great Resignation in full swing, employees are looking at other companies. Having a strong mental health policy and initiative that focuses on the employees and offers training can be great for employee retention.