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May 9, 2022

As the future of the workplace evolves, place mental health first

Help your employees return to the office with flexibility, empathy, and support.

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Mental health has been in the spotlight since early in the pandemic. The early days of quarantining and social distancing started the conversation, and shed light on how our mental health was negatively affected by isolation. Now is the time to continue the conversation about what matters most, your employees' mental health and well-being.  

According to a survey conducted in October 2021 by The Conference Board, 57% of workers said their mental health has suffered since the pandemic.

“I believe that the pandemic has had a significant negative impact on mental health due to multiple variables such as a disruption in routines, isolation, loss of job, loss of family/friend, and uncertainty of returning to normal,” Michael Rivas, Executive Vice President of Risk Services for MMA’s Midwest region, said. That is why Michael and other colleagues decided it was time to innovate the way we handle mental health in the now hybrid workplace

The silver linings

While there was much discussion on how mental health was negatively affected early in the pandemic, eventually, employees got into a routine, and many found positive aspects in their new remote work situations. Some employees started to notice their finances improve once they could forgo the morning and evening commute to work. Working from home afforded most people time and money they didn’t have before.

As we reach a time where the pandemic is slowing down and life is speeding back up, a sense of normalcy is coming back. Employers are struggling with the best way to approach returning to the office in the least stressful way for them and their employees.

The pandemic disrupted the work-life balance of our workforce, often in a favorable way. So how do you support your employees as they make the shift back to the office?

Continuing to be flexible while coming back into the office 

Workers had the opportunity to display their flexibility at the beginning of the pandemic. Employees made the switch to a work-from-home lifestyle with almost no advanced notice, and for many, it placed strain on their mental health. They stuck it out as they navigated the transition, and patiently waited for the “quarantine period” to be over so they could return to their “normal” lives. While the two-week timeline turned into months, and eventually years, employees proved to be flexible and resilient. It’s our turn to return the flexibility as our employees return to the office. 

The talent crisis has shown that employees are willing to move on from those employers who are not willing to be flexible, even if that means taking a pay cut. According to a recent study from Prudential, of the 22% of workers who switched jobs during the pandemic, one-third said they took a pay cut in exchange for a job that offered a better work/life balance. 

Focus on soft skills

Organizations need empathetic and compassionate leaders more than ever. Many employees have enjoyed being more independent during this time. Adjusting your management style to fit with the expectations of your employees is an important way to show your support. By letting them continue to balance things such as their schedules and work locations, you are letting them know you trust them.

Daniel Goleman, author and expert on Emotional Intelligence, lists the following skills as the most important attributes of emotionally intelligent leaders:

  • Self-awareness
  • Motivation
  • Self-management
  • Empathy
  • Social skills

Training your team to identify the warning signs of declining mental health 

Marsh McLennan Agency (MMA) offers Mental Health First Aid training focusing on first line support, crisis and non-crisis situations, and learning to pinpoint early and worsening signs and symptoms of mental health challenges. Studies show that colleagues who are trained in Mental Health First Aid are more confident and willing to help others and advise people in seeking professional help.

“Managers should be encouraged to complete programs such as Mental Health First Aid so they are better prepared on how to respond to an employee that may be struggling with a heightened stress level and how to best guide the employee to the right resources,” Rivas said.

To schedule Mental Health First Aid training for your organization, please contact a member of the wellness team. We will be happy to get on a call with you to discuss the next steps in implementing this training in your organization.