Welcome to a new normal three part series on mental health and building healthy brand habits going into the 2021 New Year. 2020 has been a uniquely taxing year for many Sri Lankans, with a global pandemic, racial unrest, and a increasing of number of Covid-19 patients. Entrepreneurs and CEOs have faced unprecedented challenges and should be looking after their own mental health, but it is equally important for good leaders to be encouraging their employees to take care of their own mental health, as well. Here are some ideas for leaders to help their people stay mentally strong that require varying degrees of extra company resources, including none at all.
1) Encourage everyone to take their Paid Time off (PTO).
As a result of travel bans, lockdowns and isolations many holiday travel have been canceled. Therefore many employees may be reluctant to use their paid time off as they normally do. But burnout is a real concern this year, especially with the stress of national circumstances and the adjustment to remote work in many workplaces. Employees also may be more concerned than usual about keeping their jobs, given the current state of the economy and unemployment rates. Leaders and Human Resources (HR) teams should be making efforts to encourage employees to use their earned PTO to protect their mental wellbeing and ensure the ability of everyone to cope with these working circumstances long-term. Unless may caused to damage the physical and mental health.
2) Encourage working during the shift
With remote work taking off this year for safety purposes and many companies deciding to remain off-site indefinitely, the possibility of work time bleeding into home time is more likely than ever. Again, as employees fear layoffs in the current moment, they may be more hesitant to set boundaries around their own time. Therefore it is high time to maintain a healthy work-life balance, and that task is likely to have decreased this year as remote work has proliferated. Help employees feel secure in turning off work phones and email notifications after hours to improve their sense of well-being.
3) Encourage Team Bonding.
For many organizations, gone are the days of coworker birthday cakes and chatting about the previous night’s television drama and political debates (at least temporarily!). Those interactions help create and preserve workplace bonds that build resilience and productivity among teams. Think outside of the box for how leadership can encourage team bonding in this new era, whether it’s a coworker-led story time for children learning remotely or a hired entertainer via videoconferencing. This initiative can cost as little or as much as your creativity and resources allow. Teams that know each other as full humans simply do better work, so encourage that however possible (safely, of course!).
4) Diffuse Self-Care Funds.
For companies whose bottom line is stable or even growing during this unusual year, it would be wise to invest whatever is available in taking care of its employees. An unexpected bonus or small fund for employees to spend on themselves may go a long way towards improving the mental health of someone with a partner facing layoffs or even someone who desperately needs a more ergonomic desk to make working from home more comfortable. In uncertain economic times, employees may be hesitant to spend money on them, but an unexpected boost could be a significant morale boost.
5) Be Transparent.
The theme of this year for almost everyone is uncertainty & vulnerable, and employees who are facing more of that at work are almost certainly finding it extraordinarily stressful. Even if leaders are facing similar uncertainties, the best way to manage employees’ stress is to be as transparent as possible about the organization’s prospects as possible. Being upfront can eliminate worrisome anxiety about the worst-case scenarios and maintain trust between workers and leadership. Schedule all-hands meetings for necessary updates, and make sure to give bad news as personal a touch as possible.
As the world heads into the end of a deeply troubling year, leaders need to be cognizant of how the uncertainties of 2020 may be affecting employees’ health. With that awareness at the forefront, use strategies like encouraging work-life balance, supporting team bonding, being transparent about difficult circumstances, and even monetary bonuses to help workers maintain their own mental health, avoid devastating burnout, and continue to help the organization to grow and thrive in this year and beyond.
Anslam Kaluarachchi LL.B (Sri Lanka), LL.M (Wales), LL.M (Colombo) LICA
10th November, 2020