Mental Health is the first topic for National Safety Month, an annual event created by the National Safety Council (NSC) to increase safety awareness. As we are all living through dramatic changes, it's a good time to look at managing workplace stress in a pandemic.
According to the Society for Human Resource Management’s (SHRM) research, 40% of employees surveyed say work-related concerns are leaving them feeling hopeless and burned out. And 22-35% of the workforce is feeling drained or having trouble concentrating. These symptoms of stress and depression impact more than morale. Strained workers typically aren't as productive as content workers. Managing workplace stress in a pandemic is critical for both employers and employees.
An organization of HR experts, SHRM recommends that employers adopt the following strategies to promote mental health in their facilities.
When communicating with employees during a pandemic, make it clear that their health and safety is the foremost concern for the company. And share resources that may help them with managing workplace stress in a pandemic, including benefits like your Employee Assistance Program (EAP). Though continued operations are critical to any company's health, business continuity is impossible without healthy workers.
Encourage open communication and lead by example. Communication can ease anxiety, and employees may find comfort in thoughtful messages. Share policies and plans as you develop them, and welcome honest feedback. And be prepared to answer questions and address concerns as they arise.
Managing workplace stress in a pandemic isn't just about factors in the workplace. According to SHRM's research, people living with vulnerable populations (e.g., children and the elderly) have been more susceptible to stress and depression during the current COVID-19 pandemic. Offering support, flexible work arrangements, and leave can help ease anxiety about how these employees will navigate competing responsibilities.
As employers work to mitigate stress and ease concerns, employees need proactively manage their stress levels. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends workers do the following to cope with stress and build resilience during the COVID-19 pandemic.
You can't manage your stress levels if you don't realize you're straining. Stress symptoms can range from anger and irritation to uncertainty and anxiety to lack of motivation and fatigue. How these symptoms manifest can vary significantly from person to person and day to day. It's important to monitor yourself for changes in temperament, energy, and concentration.
The key to managing workplace stress in a pandemic is knowing what factors can impact your stress levels. Factors include fear of exposure in the workplace, caretaking, altered workload, uncertainty about the future, and adapting to a new workplace or schedule.
Just as stress symptoms vary from person to person, so do the triggers that bring on those symptoms. As you monitor yourself for symptoms, try to connect the conditions that cause them. Is it harder to do your job without access to specific people or equipment? Are increased demands at home making it difficult to balance your responsibilities? Identifying the causes of your stress is the only way you can begin to address the issue.
Your employer can't help you navigate managing workplace stress in a pandemic if they don't know the challenges you're facing. Share your concerns and issues with your supervisor. It's a good idea to know the options available and bring ideas for potential solutions to the conversation. If necessary, reach out to your HR team for policy and benefit information.
Keeping your daily routine as consistent as possible can help give you a sense of control over your life and alleviate stress. From sleeping and eating habits to the structure of your workday, consistency can not only mitigate symptoms, but it can also prevent them.
Be sure to take regular breaks, exercise, socialize, and relax each day. Taking care of yourself will improve your mental state, making managing workplace stress in a pandemic easier. Finding ways to enjoy yourself regularly will make you healthier and happier.
Taking the right safety measures can help employees navigate managing workplace stress in a pandemic. Contact us today!