Unpredictable events can affect individuals and organisations in equal measures. During times of crisis, employees look to their leaders as a source of guidance and stability. While no business leader can always be prepared for every crisis or have all the answers, they can at least have some reliable measures in place to maintain mental health at work.
This article will examine some useful tips for how to support employees during difficult times. They might help leaders and managers maintain workplace mental health even when problems arise.
What can disrupt employee mental health at work?
As the last two years have shown us, not even the most stable organisations are invulnerable to a crisis. Unpredictable events beyond our control happen all the time.
Sometimes they are health or economy-related. Sometimes, they are caused by agents in an employee’s life. Often, they are events at a larger scale that have a domino effect on the entire world, individuals, and organisations. It is also not uncommon that the crisis is triggered by particular aspects of the company itself, the market, or the niche.
Whatever the cause of the difficulties, one thing is certain: mental health in the workplace is going to be affected. For this reason, vulnerable people require better support and protective measures.
The way a company recovers from hardships is determined by the tools, strategies, and resources it has in place. Leaders who know this will take precautionary measures on time so that the losses during difficult times are minimised as much as possible.
Best ways to provide mental health support at work
While crises are inevitable, business leaders can choose how to respond to them. Having a mental health strategy can protect employees from further distress during moments of uncertainty, stress, or radical change. During these difficulties, most employees will look up to their leaders for solutions or answers. While these cannot be always provided, leaders can still choose tips and practices that reduce distress during difficult moments.
In the paragraphs below, we will present some advice on how leaders can best maintain employee morale during difficult times.
Show appreciation and empathy
No matter how resilient someone is, difficult moments or a personal crisis can still affect someone’s emotional wellbeing. If there are any events in the world or the organisation that directly impact employees, do not forget to display empathy and understanding. It is difficult for someone to maintain their productivity and deliver the best results while they are in a vulnerable place.
Besides their professional role, employees are humans with emotions and weaknesses. When leaders understand this, they will increase their empathy in difficult situations. Empathy can also be shown by displaying appreciation for the work done. This will make employees feel seen, valued, and respected. Some positive and supportive behaviours that can be adopted in difficult situations are:
- Recognising and showing appreciation for someone’s work
- Doing small acts of affirmation, such as a ‘thank you for a job well done’
- Praising and sending appreciation letters and emails
Besides an increased need for empathy, difficult times also call for more flexibility. It is unrealistic to expect that employees would perform as usual under more stressful conditions. For this reason, the best thing you can do is remain flexible and adopt new problem-solving strategies.
Get ready to adjust interim productivity goals, delegate employee assignments to others, and generally work more flexibly. If some employees need to work from home in their own time, see how you can accommodate that. The main thing to keep in mind is that people cope differently with stress and difficulties. Therefore, be willing to adapt to various measures and working modalities depending on your employees’ needs.
Ask the right questions
Besides listening, leaders should also be ready to ask the right questions. This would allow them to see how they can offer mental health support. Bear in mind that some people might be reluctant to ask for help or talk about their feelings at work. For this reason, it is best to prepare some questions that open up a dialogue during crises and difficult times, such as:
- How can I best support you at this moment?
- Is there anything, in particular, you need at this moment?
- What is something we could provide right now to make the situation a bit better for you?
- Do you have any questions for us you think we could answer for you?
- Do you have any feedback or suggestions for how we could handle this situation better?
Check in with your team
It would be a really good idea if managers had the chance to check in with all employees in private during a challenging time.
If you know that some people are more crucially affected than others, make them a priority. Follow up on their wellbeing, ask questions, and let them know you care. During difficult moments, mental health should always be a priority, even before productivity goals.