Post-Covid Long-term Effects Puts A Spotlight On Employee Wellness
While we recognize that COVID case numbers are down, researchers are just now to find out what COVID’s long-term mental health effects will be.
Though this is information that will continue to change within our working landscape, employee well-being is more important than ever and we can address some areas right now in the workplace. The following are suggestions that we should take to heart as we learn more about Long-term COVID effects.
Recognize pandemic stress
Two-plus years later, it’s a different story. Many people have suffered through long isolation periods. For many it has been a real challenge and has limited their workplace support system. In addition, “pandemic fatigue”, seems to be felt globally, no matter how someone has been impacted by the virus. Pandemic stress is real and hurts the whole person, at home and at work.
In the era of the pandemic, social unrest, the Great Resignation and world conflict, employers must pay attention to well-being to avoid plunges in productivity and performance that could be caused by COVID long-term mental health effects.
Employers should consistently track the overall well-being of the workforce going forward, and have a plan for what to do when they see a downturn.
So what can employers do to counter this long-term COVID stress?
More than ever, employers must stay aware of the stress levels in their workplace by doing the following:
1. Identify the cause
Start with the root causes of burnout and implement meaningful workplace changes that address them.
Here are three common causes of workplae burnout:
- Exhaustion: ongoing, overwhelming stress
- Negative environment: meaning fear, negativity and cynicism are taking over, and
- Indifference: referring to a sense of personal ineffectiveness and lack of accomplishment.
2. Make regular meetings part of routine
One-on-one interaction between managers and employees should be part of the culture. This builds trust between two people –especially between leader and direct report. Have ongoing communication and regular check-ins to ask about workload and well-being. They go a long way toward showing that an employee is valued and cared for.
3. Provide education & resources to managers
Not all managers are well-equipped to have these conversations. That makes it critical for HR teams to provide resources, support and guidance to people leaders. Training managers to look for and prevent stress in the workplace can also increase retention.
4. Create “phsychological safety“
“Psychological safety” is an employees’ belief they are supported in the workplace and can speak freely without discrimination or repercussions. Building that kind of trust between employees and managers is crucial to identifying employees at risk for burnout and providing the support they need to cope with stress.
5. Add supportive policies
Put clear, supportive policies and development programs in place. Be sure that all employees are aware of these programs.
Here are some examples:
- Support people leaders in developing the skills they need to support the well-being of their teams. Reskilling managers who need to up their game on emotional intelligence and empathy will help keep talent from leaving because of high-stress levels and lack of support.
- Put a new COVID-sensitive travel and/or return to office policy in place with maximum flexibility. Some people may be ready to hop on a plane or come back to the office when case numbers decline. Others may experience high stress just thinking about it. It’s better to give employees options rather than across-the-board requirements.
- Support managers with the clarity, communication and empowerment they need to effectively manage change, equip their teams and improve processes that lead to inefficiencies and frustrations.
Takeaway: Be sure to respond quickly to signs of stress
Companies need to do more than focus on a single individual case of stress. They can best help people by focusing on the work environment as a whole. In many cases, post-pandemic stress may be related to workload, inefficient processes, ineffective change management or lack of support. That’s an organizational challenge, not a psychological puzzle, and it’s a challenge most companies can do something about right now. Keep in mind that HR departments will never be good substitutes for someone getting professional help for mental health challenges.