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The reopening of businesses, recreational and leisure destinations in Ontario is improving our sense of well-being, yet many of us are still plagued by pandemic weariness. WSPS Mental Health Consultant Danielle Stewart sympathizes.
"For the past 18 months we've all been working harder and longer, trying to juggle work and family, been isolated from friends and family, and have had little downtime," says Danielle. As a result, we’re struggling to remain motivated and productive at the same time we’re being told to maintain pandemic precautions. Infection rates may be down overall, but they’re still flaring in communities across Canada.
What's the solution? "Start by doubling down on that emerging sense of well-being. Embrace empathy and compassion, acknowledge and address the 'brain drain' employees are feeling, and communicate with positivity and optimism," advises Danielle.
With a positive approach and outlook, employers can help employees improve their mental health, re-energize and recover their motivation. Here are seven suggestions.
1. Create spaces where employees can air their frustrations. It's important to acknowledge and understand what employees are feeling about the stresses they are under, and to show compassion. Try Informal team chats in person or online and conduct surveys. The intent is to meet with employees, ask and answer questions, hear concerns, identify barriers and build rapport.
2. Flip the narrative in a mindful and uplifting way. If an employee shares a frustration, work with the person to resolve it, or find a compromise or silver lining, says Danielle. "When you end a conversation on a positive note, employees won't remain stuck in a negative place. Positivity is contagious." If there's no immediate answer, follow up and keep the employee in the loop. "If employees are willing to share their frustrations, they have a level of trust in you. Supervisors and managers need to act on and foster that trust."
3. Simplify. "Look for efficiencies and avoid overcomplicating things," says Danielle, "because we don’t have those extra brain units we had before." Streamline protocols and eliminate redundancies wherever you can. Solicit employee ideas on how to complete a task more efficiently - they know their jobs best. "This will help us get through this weariness and make your organization leaner and more effective in the long run."
4. Reduce workload. Recent research by Robert Half found that 43% of employees surveyed were more burned out on the job today compared to 33% a year ago; 42% of employees experiencing greater fatigue blamed it on a heavier workload.* "When you add something to the list, take two off. If you can't do that, you really have to prioritize and set clear expectations - "This is what I need you to do, this would be nice to be done.'"
5. Applaud wins. Celebrating successes, big and small, that are tied to your organization's goals fosters a positive culture, boosts spirits, and is vital to pandemic recovery. Share the wins everywhere - via emails or texts, at team meetings, on an "awesome" wall or website, in newsletters, at company meetings, etc.
6. Prioritize your employees' mental health and well-being. Encourage employees to take vacations, get adequate rest, eat properly, use EAP or community services, and participate in available health and wellness programs. Consider offering resiliency training as well. "If we can build resiliency in our staff, then they are going to be more agile, flexible, and respond better to change."
7. Create an inspiring vision for your organization. Build on the pandemic's silver linings - new ways of working, greater flexibility, less bureaucracy, greater connectivity. Include employees while formulating and implementing your vision. "It makes people feel they own the vision as much as you do."
How WSPS can help
- Find useful articles, videos and other resources related to mental health and COVID-19 at thinkmentalhealth.ca
- Ensure your COVID-19 communications build trust
- Save the date for the Partners in Prevention Fall Virtual Conference (Southern Ontario) on October 20, 2021. The event will feature several sessions on improving mental health and motivation, including:
- Keynote: The Serious Business of Positive Emotions - Easy & Proven Tools to Achieve Personal and Professional Success - Paul Krismer
- Breaking Down the Barriers to Build a Psychologically Safe Work Environment - Dr. Dayna Lee-Baggley, Ph.D.
* "Burnout Building For 44% Of Workers, Robert Half Research Shows," Robert Half Talent Solutions; https://rh-us.mediaroom.com/2021-05-24-Burnout-Building-For-44-Of-Workers,-Robert-Half-Research-Shows