July 16, 2020 - 3 min read
Enhancing workforce mental health during COVID-19 and beyond
Tips for promoting and modeling resiliency during a pandemic
While business leaders have naturally been focused on keeping people physically safe and employed during this public health crisis, mental health has taken on a larger focus recently – and for good reason. Protective equipment and safety guidelines aim to keep employees physically safe, but they don’t necessarily address the potential stress and anxiety of returning to the workplace.
Prioritizing mental health and wellness
With employees experiencing increased levels of anxiety and stress, business leaders and managers have an opportunity to prioritize mental health by simply having open dialogues with their employees, then acting on what they hear. By making the topic of mental health more accessible, it becomes significantly easier to discuss things like social isolation and self-care – and ultimately, change the way we approach and discuss mental health issues in general.
For starters, companies can adjust their policies to build positive, stress-reducing behaviors into their culture. For instance, Blue Shield of California has put a company-wide policy into place that prevents meetings from being scheduled between 12:00 PM to 1:30 PM. That way, parents have time during the day to spend with their children, employees don’t feel pressed to run errands before or after work, and so on. It’s a tiny adjustment, but one that’s ended up making a big difference to the people who needed that time back in their day.
One of the most significant reasons to implement these kinds of stress-reducing changes is that while the effort required is often minimal, the end results are often anything but. Talking to employees about relaxation techniques, scheduling virtual lunch dates with friends, and setting aside 10-minute blocks of time throughout the day to stand outside are good examples of this.
Leading by example
As you care for those around you, it’s important not to lose sight of your own mental wellbeing. The demands of keeping a business running during a pandemic while you care for your own family (including your own finances) can and will take a toll. To that end, be conscious of burnout. There is only so much you can do in a day, and knowing your limits will make you a more effective leader.
If you are struggling with your own mental health, don’t be afraid to share it with your employees. Let them know what your challenges are and that you are getting help. When a leader is willing to be transparent about their own mental health, it promotes a culture of openness and wellbeing that can be beneficial to your entire workforce.
Another way to bring mental health to the forefront is to let employees know they have access to tele-behavioral health services.
Blue Shield is providing members with mental health services via phone, app or video conferencing, either with their current therapist or a new provider. Making these services available virtually ensures continuity of care to those currently receiving treatment, and allows members experiencing pandemic-related stress and anxiety to receive the support they need. Our priority for members is access to care, even if they can’t receive it in person at the moment. Teladoc behavioral health can connect an employee to professional help in less than 24 hours. These visits have been extended through September 30, 2020 and Teladoc® has waived copayments for members.
Emphasizing that employees aren’t alone in having to deal with stress, anxiety, and depression can be hard – especially if you’re not sure where to turn. Blue Shield offers its own workforce employee assistance programs (EAPs) that are free, confidential, and designed to help employees and their families with mental health and emotional wellness. Beyond talking and encouraging your people to make use of Teladoc services, there may be additional EAPs available through Blue Shield or the state of California that you could turn to. Additional resources include:
Wellvolution is a health platform designed to support whole person health, including stress management and mental health
Life Referrals 24/7 connects members with a team of experienced professionals ready to help you with a wide range of personal, family, and work issues.
Blue Shield’s BlueSky program is an excellent resource for students coping with mental health issues.
California’s surgeon general published a guidebook for caregiver and child stress relief during COVID-19.
The state of California also offers a number of services – emergency and otherwise – for anyone in need.
Review your health plan documents or talk to your Blue Shield representative to understand what programs are available for you.
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