Many of us watched, helplessly, as COVID-19 disrupted our lives. Businesses closed their doors, dedicated employees were unexpectedly unemployed, and the world came to a screeching halt. Daily interactions, such as a hug or a handshake, were suddenly prohibited. This sudden shift in daily interactions has impacted the mental health of many individuals, specifically anxiety. Anxiety has become a buzz word in many industries. Consequently, employees are suffering in silence with this potentially crippling disease.
With the influx of change and uncertainty in our society, organizations must be well prepared to provide support for employees suffering from anxiety. Now is a great time for organizations to implement a game plan to provide resources for their employees who suffer from numerous forms of mental distress.
Know the Signs
Anxiety is an emotion characterized by feelings of tension, worried thoughts, and physical changes like increased blood pressure. Anxiety portrays numerous symptoms and may vary according to each individual. Individuals suffering from anxiety typically have rapacious ideas and tend to avoid situations that would cause extreme worry. (NIMH » Anxiety Disorders)
The National Institute of Mental Health lists the following as symptoms of anxiety:
*Panic or uneasiness
*Shortness of breath
* Inability to stay calm and still
* Tense muscles
* Heart palpitations
The workplace should be a place of support and comfort for those dealing with anxiety. Unfortunately, many organizations lack the necessary knowledge and resources to handle the psychological distress that is plaguing many employees. There are numerous steps that organizations can take to help employees conquer anxiety.
Incorporate Mental Health Awareness in the Workplace
> Employers should add mental health benefits to current health plans and ensure that employees are informed of these benefits. Many companies are beginning to incorporate benefits, such as therapy and counseling, at discounted rates. The offset of this cost will encourage employees to improve their mental and emotional wellness. It is also an excellent opportunity for organizations to show employees that their overall wellness is valued.
> Collaborate with Human Resources in developing training that will help leaders identify and adequately address signs of anxiety. All leadership must be trained to recognize symptoms of anxiety and discreetly assist the employee. Far too often, employees are penalized for a decrease in production. Mental distress can cause a reduction in work quality. A simple conversation can uncover any underlying anxiety ailments.
> Incorporate “ Mental Health Days” into the current PTO plan. Employees should be allocated a few days of mental rest without sacrificing current paid time off hours.
Lend a Listening Ear
>Be empathetic. Practicing empathy is a critical point in dealing with those who are suffering from different forms of anxiety. Empathy is a component of emotional intelligence that will allow leaders to understand the feelings of their employees further.
> Keep your door open. Often employees are looking for a safe place to share their concerns. Practice active listening and listen intently. Assure the employee that all discussions will remain confidential. It is not easy for employees to be vulnerable and address their concerns to leadership. Take the initiative to be present and attentive.
> Encourage Peer to Peer consultations. At times, it is easier for an employee to discuss issues with those who work alongside them regularly. This camaraderie can develop trust and unity within work relationships.
> Modify the tasks and work schedule of the employee. Consider allowing the employee to work remotely or modify their work environment to alleviate many symptoms of anxiety.
>Adjust the frequency of breaks. Allow employees an extra ten to fifteen-minute break to mentally unwind and recharge.
>Be mindful of your communication style. Certain tones, gestures, and body language could trigger anxiety. Be aware of how the employee responds and adapt accordingly.
The psychological wellbeing of employees must remain a priority as organizations endure various transitions. Internal and external influences will continue to affect productivity and performance. However, organizations are empowered to create systems that will benefit the mental health of their employees.
NIMH » Anxiety Disorders. https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/anxiety-disorders/index.shtml