It seems like, with every week that passes, there are new federal and state policies along with updates to events and activities that are changing how we live and work. It is clear that all companies, teams and communities have been affected by the outbreak of COVID-19 and many companies are having to pivot. With our normal routine interrupted and living with such an uncertain future, it’s hard to have anything stable to hold on to. How can we hold it together?

What’s Considered Mental Health

Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make healthy choices. Given the state of the world today, it is crucial to be aware of your health and well-being.

Although the terms are often used interchangeably, poor mental health and mental illness are not the same things. A person can experience poor mental health and not be diagnosed with a mental illness. Likewise, a person diagnosed with a mental illness can experience periods of physical, mental, and social well-being.

Your mental health can fluctuate and there is no single cause, it is dependent on many things including biological factors, stressful or traumatic life events, and chronic health conditions. Mental illness is very common, but many people are unaware that they are suffering. It is an important part of overall health and well-being to know the signs and symptoms.

The topic of mental health has always been important, and it’s even more important now. To break the stigma around mental health issues, we need to start having conversations about our mental health and engage in them regularly. We need to consider the needs of our employees, our clients and their members and constituents.

Why It’s an Important Focus for Everyone

You’ve likely been on a flight and heard the flight attendant say to “place your oxygen mask on yourself before assisting others.” We often don’t think about taking care of ourselves first, but, it’s an important point. How can you be of service to others if you are not taking care of yourself?

Aside from our own self-care, one person’s well-being can cause a domino effect. Have you ever been with someone who was having a really bad day? “It started as soon as I woke up late…” You work with that person or live with that person and then you start to feel their bad day, their attitude, their mood, their performance. We are all influenced by other people’s mental, physical and emotional states whether they are sadness, anger, fear, happiness, joy or excitement. Those negative moods, if left unchecked, can turn into more serious issues.

What Can Your Company Do?

Providing mental health awareness and resources show your staff not only that you care about their livelihood, but it can also have an effect on your bottom line. Research shows that for every dollar spent addressing mental health disorders returns four dollars in health care savings and improved productivity.

I know that budgets are tight during the pandemic but, you don’t need to spend a lot of money to create a program to support your staff. Here are some quick and easy ways to get started:

  1. Communicate with employees about any special benefits provided by the government or their insurance carriers. Programs like EAP go mostly unused and forgotten
  2. Share free apps and streaming videos that can support an individual’s mental health such as meditation, mindfulness, ergonomics, and yoga
  3. Encourage leaders and managers to talk with their employees about mental health. Let them know they are not alone and encourage time to talk about how they are doing.
  4. Help them understand their current state and know the warning signs. Many people “push-through” the pain and never receive help.

What Are We Doing?

At Personify, we recognized the need for mental health support during the pandemic and made the decision to roll out a 30-Day Mental Health and Well-Being program. Since there are many factors that go into an individual’s mental health and every person has a different experience, we cover a broad range of topics and ideas to help people think about their mental health and make it a priority. For 30 days, our employees received a daily email that provided education in a particular area and included three resources or actions that they can take in their personal and work lives.

We covered topics including compassion, occupational health and ergonomics, physical activity, a creativity challenge, game night, encouragement, community, mindset, nutrition and more. Additionally, we highlighted our staff who are subject matter experts and had them host Zoom calls for their colleagues for activities such as meditation, dancing the Charleston, 3D printing, knitting and more. It’s a great opportunity to get to know your colleagues on a personal level and also provides much-needed socialization while we continue to “shelter-in-place.”

The response was overwhelmingly positive, and we conducted a post-program survey to find out more. The information we gathered from our employees will allow us to tailor a wellness program that is custom fit for our people’s needs. There is a strong desire for stress management resources like meditation. The most popular activity we hosted as part of the program was a “no-meeting day.” In a world of back to back virtual meetings, Zoom fatigue has become a popular subject. We are inspired to create a culture around mental health to help remove the stigma around this topic. We want employees to feel comfortable talking about their needs and make self-care a priority.

Interested in Going Further?

In our search for ideas, we found a few helpful resources for your own mental health and wellness journey:

  1. Your company’s benefits broker can provide information and collateral on health benefits and programs for employees like the EAP.
  2. The CDC has a wealth of articles, podcasts, data statistics around diseases, healthy living, traveling, emergency preparedness and more.
  3. Mental Health America is a community-based nonprofit that promotes mental health and wellness to those who have needs. They offer many tools, personal assessments, strategies and a community where people can share stories. It is helpful for people to be able to relate.
  4. Finances can be a major source of stress for some, especially during Covid. Alison offers a free financial literacy course to help people manage their money.
  5. Psychologically Safe Leader is a free resource for workplace leaders to evaluate and build their strategies around mental health and safety.
  6. Psychology Today hosts innumerable articles that are quick informative reads and easy to share.

There are many online mental health resources, but I encourage you to first engage with your people and teams to find what they need the most and create strategies that address those concerns. The more we talk about mental health, the more we remove the stigma and fear of getting help.