Three ways to support employees’ emotional wellness and mental health in a hybrid workplace – Times of India

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Senior director, HR at Skillsoft and SumTotal Systems
Every year brings with it a unique set of challenges. However, a lot has happened over the past couple of years, and many of us are not okay. Between political and social unrest and a global pandemic, it is only natural that we’ve been preoccupied. And while this has many personal implications, our emotional wellness extends into the workplace.
Research has suggested that stressors in the workplace, combined with ineffective coping mechanisms, can lead to physical manifestations, including hypertension, diabetes, and cardiovascular diseases. It can also contribute to employee burnout, diminishing their capacity to work effectively. According to a study, 93% of employers agreed that mental health was hampering company-wide productivity; meanwhile, only one-quarter to one-third of managers said they felt prepared to handle their employees’ emotional wellness needs.
Though organizations have the best intentions around mental health, they do not always have the practical skills to manage employee issues effectively. Because employers haven’t developed a common language around emotional wellness in the workplace, it is possible that they are avoiding key conversations around it. By addressing common root causes of mental health issues through education, organizations can empower managers and employees to turn this conversation around.
Here are three ways to support employees’ wellness and mental health in the workplace. 
Make mental health compliance a priority
When organizations think about compliance training, they often zero in on legal compliance initiatives or specific workplace safety training. Compliance training on mental health issues may fall by the wayside. Understanding how to manage stress and educating the entire organization on mental health best practices is one meaningful way to improve morale and make the workplace a safe, welcoming place for all employees.
While it is not easy to create fundamental cultural change, there are two key questions that organizations can ask to support mental health awareness through training. 
Facilitate work-life balance
In the hybrid work culture wherein the employee works from home a few days a week, stress can more readily affect their ability to work efficiently. The stress of working from home is twofold. First, there are the logistical dynamics; kids are home, and spouses or other family members are likely working from home. And then there is the atypical stress about what’s happening in the world today. In such cases, stress management and balancing work demands and personal responsibilities are very important. 
In order to best support remote teams, employers should offer employees tips on managing stress, home office ergonomics, and education on common remote/hybrid work issues they may face. If efforts to find balance aren’t working, employees should be encouraged to talk to their supervisors. They can be a valuable resource when developing an effective plan to manage the stressors identified so that employees can perform at their best on the job. They can help identify areas to improve skills, such as time management. And they can point out any employer-sponsored wellness resources that employees can leverage, such as an employee assistance program (EAP) which often includes online information, available counselling and referral to mental health professionals, if needed.
Take action to mitigate the risk of harassment 
Just like in the physical workplace, many forms of harassment and bullying can occur virtually and remotely. Employees are particularly prone to hostile work environments where a remote/hybrid workplace creates a more relaxed atmosphere. 
To combat this, employers need to clarify remote/hybrid work policies. It’s important to remember that all employees are operating under increased stress which can affect their mental health and increase harassment. Organizations must clarify to their employees that harassment is illegal, even under strained work conditions. Employers should carefully review their harassment policies and update language related to remote and hybrid work to ensure expectations are well documented.
Addressing employees’ mental health concerns can be beneficial not just at the individual level but also at the organizational level. Having a clear-cut mental health policy and open communication about concerns can go a long way in promoting a sense of well-being and increasing employees’ productivity. Along with this, organizations should take steps to create a more inclusive and safer workplace. 
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Views expressed above are the author’s own.
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