It is a widely known fact across global workplaces that many people are experiencing a range of mental health and other psychosocial problems right now. Added stressors associated with the impacts of COVID-19 and remote work combine to make workplace mental health an emerging issue for businesses globally. The global standards body, ISO, has recognised the importance of mental health at work ( psychosocial health ) and has recently released ISO 45003:2021 Occupational health and safety management — Psychological health and safety at work — Guidelines for managing psychosocial risks. With the release of the new standard and a range of litigations emerging in this broad field, we’d like to provide some practical changes that you can make at your workplace right now to assist in improving mental health in the workplace.
Respect Work-Life Balance
Working from home can sometimes help work-life balance by eliminating commute time. However, many people find that their work bleeds into their free time when the two take place in the same space. Respect your own work-life balance and that of others by clocking off at a planned time and not answering work emails or phone calls after that time. Try not to send your employees emails late at night when they may feel obligated to respond. For some people making some kind of physical or visual distinction between work time and non-work time can help.
Communicate and Check-In
Check-in with your employees regularly. Schedule one on one meetings and let them talk to you about your concerns. Make sure to be a little vulnerable yourself; many people are grappling with complex work and family issues and there should be no stigma at your workplace to admitting to it. Regular communication can help with both productivity and mental health both. Just don’t overdo the video calls to the point where people start suffering from “Zoom fatigue.”
The reduced ability to socialize face-to-face is causing loneliness and isolation. Pay special attention to employees who live alone and might go days without talking to anyone. While, again, video conferencing can be overdone, encourage people to do virtual happy hours and virtual lunches. Make sure people are devoting some effort to socializing, even if it has to be virtual right now.
Be Flexible and Inclusive
If people need to work different hours from normal because their children are learning from home, explore opportunities for working around their schedules. They will be much more productive with their core work if they can work without having to also supervise virtual learning.
Needs will keep changing through this, so keep checking in. If you’re changing your own work schedule, tell them; this helps normalize it and encourages people to ask for accommodations.
Encourage Home Office Upgrades
Do you, or a member of your team, work at the dining table in a hard chair? Help your employees design a safe and productive home office that works better for them, and if necessary provide them with the tools they need to do so. If they are working from a laptop, your company might be able to provide an external ergonomic monitor, keyboard and mouse for improved ergonomics? If they take a lot of calls, provide them with a quality headset.
Talk to your employees about ways to make their workspace more comfortable that doesn’t require a lot of effort, like positioning monitors to avoid glare, making a footstool out of seldom-read books to help short people be more comfortable in their chair, etc. You can even ask them to complete a self-check on the key health and safety issues.
You might like to read our article about working from home
Encourage Breaks, Exercise, and Walks
One awful tendency when working remotely is that you sit in your office all day then…sit in your office all evening. Encourage your employees to take regular stretching breaks, go for a walk if possible, and exercise daily. Exercise lowers anxiety levels, reduces depression and forces a mental break.
Set a good example by taking breaks yourself and by not answering the phone when you are on break. This will help employees realize that it is okay to take a break.
Last, but not least, make sure your employees have the resources they need to help get them through a rough patch, and that they know those resources are available. If you have an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) remind employees of its existence and the services it offers. Make sure that your employees have access to telehealth benefits for counselling and mental health.
These are difficult times and many of us are having some struggles with mental health. Help your employees by encouraging breaks and good work-life balance, supporting good ergonomics at home and being flexible. Set a good example by taking breaks and seeking balance yourself.
if you need some support from our professional health & safety team on programs for improving mental health at work or psychosocial health at work the team from Safetysure can provide guidance and support. Call us on 1300 087 888 or chat below.