According to research conducted by Mental Health Research Canada, the number of Canadians reporting feelings of anxiety has quadrupled since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. A Nanos Research survey indicated that over double the number of Canadians are reported to be feeling constant, extreme stress. Prolonged stress and anxiety can lead to feelings of hopelessness and despair potentially resulting in serious mental health concerns, including depression.
The COVID-19 pandemic has introduced an entirely new set of stressors, and it’s these drastic changes that are causing so many people’s stress and anxiety levels to balloon to unmanageable levels. For example, the pandemic has created greater stress, including:
- Job security concerns
- Worry about contracting the virus
- Concern over children/loved ones getting sick
- Having to adjust to working from home
- Having to educate children, perhaps while juggling working from home
- Feelings of isolation/loneliness
- Financial concerns
- Worry over the impact of the pandemic on your own, your children’s, or loved ones’ mental health
- Inability to adhere to previous routines that are good for mental health, such as going to a gym or out for date night
- Having to manage feelings of uncertainty and fear of the unknown
How Can Employers Help?
Employers must understand that the pandemic has created new stressors in their lives, resulting in increased feelings of anxiety. Employers have a responsibility to ensure the safety and wellbeing of their workers. There are many ways that employers can help support and assist employees who are struggling with mental wellness during the challenging COVID-19 pandemic.
Consider an EAP
If your benefits program doesn’t include an Employee Assistance Plan (EAP), consider adding one. Or, check to see if you already have one as part of your benefits package. An EAP offers counselling and other support for employees in need. Employees do not need to be suffering from work-related stress. EAPs help workers with a variety of problems including managing stress, depression, anxiety, addictions, marriage issues, and more. The key to ensuring employees use the EAP is ensuring that they know it’s available. Be sure to share the information with employees regularly, and make it available on bulletin boards, in employee lounges, and on the intranet.
Support Remote Workers
Many workers are working remotely for the first time. Don’t let this be a case of out of sight, out of mind. Be sure to support remote workers by checking in frequently, ensuring they have everything they need to do the job, and asking how they’re doing on a personal level. This will help workers feel they’re still connected.
Consider Adjusting your Safety Leadership Style
Leadership through example is the cornerstone of effective safety leadership. Set a positive example by ensuring that all safety leaders are following all new protocols, all the time. In addition to leading by example, the COVID-19 crisis has forced organizational leaders to start being more emotionally intelligent. Compassion is key when it comes to safety leadership in the workplace during a pandemic.
Communication can alleviate a lot of stress and worry. Be sure to communicate frequently, and openly. Employers, like the rest of us, may not have all of the answers or information. However, simply assuring workers that they’re being heard can be enough to quell anxiety. When you do have information, be sure to share it, and always invite further discussion, questions, and ideas.
Providing workers with mental wellness education is especially important during high stress and anxiety times. Employers can arm workers with strategies for managing mental health, reducing stress, and identifying potential risks for mental illness to mitigate the effects of COVID-19-related stress and anxiety. Training could include relaxation techniques, mindfulness meditation, and anxiety-reducing exercises.
Best Safety Training Can Help
Best Safety Training offers Psychological Health and Safety Training. This course is delivered online for your safety and convenience, so employees can safely participate in training while maintaining a safe and healthy physical distance