How CEOs Can Support Employee Mental Health in a Crisis

How can business owners can prioritize employee mental health during a pandemic (and beyond)?

There’s chaos surrounding businesses during this pandemic, and CEOs are justifiably putting focus toward issues directly impacting business. However, putting a focus on employees’ mental health plays a significant part in navigating and succeeding in this challenging situation- together. 

Here are five steps every leader and manager should take to make an immediate impact.

1. Double down on communication.

According to the Harvard Business Review, nearly 40% of people say their company has not even asked them how they’re doing since the pandemic began. Reportedly, people in this group are 38% more likely to say their mental health has declined since the outbreak of the pandemic. It’s difficult to support employees when you don’t know how they’re doing. Check in with them. How? Simply by asking “are you okay?”

2. Don’t just hear- listen actively. 

When your employees do choose to discuss their mental health, it’s important that they feel heard in doing so. Remember, you don’t need to solve everything all at once in order to support your employees. What you can do is seek to genuinely understand and ensure they feel heard and validated. 

3. Once you’ve opened the door for communication, keep it open. 

Supporting your employees’ mental health isn’t a one-and-done action. In fact, according to the Harvard Business Review, when it comes to the pandemic, “more than 90% of people said they wanted at least weekly communication from their company; 29% said they prefer daily communication.” Employees who say their manager is not good at communicating “are 23% more likely to experience mental health declines.” Keep communication lines open and maintain support for your employees. 

4. Prioritize Company Culture

“Watercooler conversations” matter more than we realize. They create opportunities for spontaneous bonding, which strengthens connections throughout the company. Many individuals working from home have limited contact with their team. The Harvard Business Review remarks that “people who are lacking informal contact are 19% more likely to report a decline in mental health since the pandemic began.” While we can’t replicate the casual run-ins and spur-of-the-moment conversation that we may have in a physical office setting, there are virtual ways of staying connected. Companies have been opening up opportunities for interaction, for example, hosting virtual happy hours.

5. Communicate Available Resources

Does your company offer mental health resources to everyone at your company? Let them know. Many employees are not aware of the resources that may be available to them. Be proactive in sharing resources that are available to help support them during a time of high stress and anxiety. People who said their company has proactively shared how to access mental health resources are “60% more likely to say that their company cares about their wellbeing.”

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