Recent research shows that both employers and employees are under significant strain due to the Covid-19 pandemic. A mid-August survey conducted by organizational-staffing firm Employco USA found that 85 percent of employers do not have a strong outlook on U.S. economic conditions over the next six months, and more than 50 percent of employers anticipate the need for additional layoffs or furloughs in that time.
“We’re seeing that the worst is not over,” says Rob Wilson, company president. “Although many areas of the country are slowing opening up, it’s not going to be enough to help many businesses make it to 2021 without laying off more employees.”
Further, the risk for depression among U.S. workers has risen a whopping 102 percent since the start of the pandemic—and more than 300 percent for employees under age 40, according to the monthly Mental Health Index from National Alliance of Healthcare Purchaser Coalitions, the HR Policy Association’s American Health Policy Institute, and the One Mind at Work coalition. “The second wave of COVID is really a mental-health wave,” says Katy Riddick of One Mind at Work. “It’s forcing employers to respond in a different way.”
However, “more than half of employees say that they haven’t been able to have productive conversations with their H.R. departments about managing burnout and emotional stress,” Wilson notes. “It’s really important for employers find ways to support emotional well-being and create a supportive, safe culture for employees."
Aside from setting reasonable hours for remote-working situations and letting employees know they can take some time during work hours to tend to children engaged in virtual learning, “organize video calls that are just for personal checking-in and chatting as a team, rather than structured meetings focused on project management and to-do lists,” Wilson says. “You could also gift your employees with a virtual yoga session or some other personal-care opportunity. Encourage healthy habits and let your employees know you understand the strain they are under. Create an online suggestion box or survey of your workers to find ways you can better support them as they manage work/life balance during the pandemic.”
Dr. Laura Hamill, an organizational psychologist, keynote speaker, and chief science officer at Limeade, adds that “50 percent of your team’s video meetings should have nothing to do with work. It’s amazing at how uplifted employees will feel after their boss and their colleagues take the time to check in on each other’s well-being. It is at least half of a manager’s job right now” to help people in remote offices commiserate and bond to maintain their psychological health.