5 Ways Employers Can Support the Mental Health of Their Employees

With the pandemic and related economic downturn, many Americans, experts report, are experiencing higher than normal levels of stress, anxiety and worry about the future. And these stresses, without doubt, are affecting employers and employees at home and in the workplace.

Consider, for example, a mom of two young children who is called to return to her worksite without having needed childcare or in-class school in place. If her supervisors aren’t able to accommodate her needs, she may be asked to accept reduced work hours or possibly be let go due to constrained business markets.

Or consider an employee who lives alone and works remotely since last March, and is struggling to remain energetic, productive and well-integrated with the team.

The fact is there are many new life-changing factors at work now that are neither easy to deal with nor resolve on a short-term basis. One key consequence of this era’s uncertainties, to be sure, is an increase in mental health issues and problems.

Even before this current period of instability, many Americans already suffered various levels of mental illness, such as depression, anxiety and related behavioral and emotional disorders. According to recent US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data, one out of every five US adults (or roughly 44.7 million people) have experienced mental illness while 71% of adults had at least one regular symptom of stress, such as headaches or having feelings of being overwhelmed or anxious.

It may not be an overreach to suggest the COVID-19 pandemic has taken a toll on everyone’s mental health. All told, there are some steps employers and their managers can take to help their employees be resilient, maintain productivity and, most importantly, maintain a healthy balance in their work and personal lives. Here are a few steps to consider:

Focus on making authentic connections with co-workers: it may be time to reconsider holding the “forced fun” virtual activities that often leave some people still feeling unconnected with their colleagues. Managers, instead, can consider proactively creating digital spaces, such as small-group virtual chat programs via video conferencing apps, to help work friendships grow. This step can go a long way to help ward off feelings of loneliness and its negative effects on mental health.

Expand access to mental health services: Consider offering employees paid time off, health insurance benefits or flexible schedules to enable them to access mental health care when they need it. With uncertain work schedules and sometimes a lack of specific health benefits coverage, accessing and benefiting from needed mental health services are difficult for many employees.

Utilize Employee Assistance Programs (EAP): EAPs can help employees in need with real-time mental health, grief or trauma counseling. The effects of dealing with the many aspects of the pandemic period suggest an increased need for programs and support in workplaces and in our communities to address mental health issues.

Make reasonable accommodations when possible: In the event an employee informs their manager that they may be suffering from anxiety, depression or another mental health condition, this person can request an accommodation be made for their unique needs. In this case, managers should work closely with this employee to know what benefits they may be entitled to under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Give employees more time each day to decompress: Encourage your employees – either working in the office, out in the field or at their home office – to step away from their work for periods throughout the day. Let them know they should go outside for a walk or for fresh air to ease up on their stress before resuming work. Executives and managers can be proactive in encouraging their teams to take these breaks so they stay engaged and productive for the rest of the day.

“People bring the most to work when they feel connected to the mission and the people around them,” writes Kathleen Schulz with the consulting firm, Gallagher, in a recent report on Returning to the Workplace in a New Reality. “A company that fosters social connections as a strategic priority and values the positive emotions around compassion, joy and caring is more likely to experience greater productivity and engagement, while protecting against illness, loneliness and burnout.”

Ultimately, as a strategic priority, this is an important time for employers to consider new ways to help their employees optimize their mental and physical health.

impactAction: If you’re interested in learning more about this topic and how to help your employees, contact us at info@impacthrllc.com or 443-741-3900.

US ICE Extends I-9 Flexible Compliance Rule Through Sep. 19

The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) last week announced an extension (through September 19) of its rule that employers with employees working remotely will not be required to review new employees’ identity and employment authorization documents in their employees’ physical presence.

Reminder: ICE’s flexible I-9 policy only applies to employers and workplaces operating remotely.
For employers whose employees are physically present at a work site, ICE states “no exceptions are being implemented at this time for in-person verification of identity and employment eligibility documentation for Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification.” Learn more.

Employee Coaching: Helping Your Employees Optimize Performance

It goes without saying new employee orientation and job training serve critical purposes in helping a new employee get off to a solid start in a new role.

Employee coaching, however, is another important and valuable HR initiative that tends to be overlooked in the day-to-day life of an organization. A business owner, for example, may think coaching an employee is too difficult or time-consuming. And this may especially be the case in the pandemic era.

Ultimately, an executive or manager’s unique leadership skills, work experience and lessons-learned on the job (read: coaching) can help create a great team of inspired, productive and loyal employees.

Employee coaching, ideally, involves executives and managers meeting regularly with employees to discuss and explore each employee’s career goals and development.

Here are five steps you can take to help coach your employees to become high-performers:

  • Discuss the employee’s expectations of the job. Whenever a new employee is hired or when an employee’s job functions change, address any questions or confusion the individual may have.
  • To help confirm or clarify the employee’s perspective of expectations, review together a copy of the job description, department goals and company goals.
  • Understand the employee’s expectations of the manager. While different employees have different communication styles, learn about what each employee expects from you as a manager and come to a reasonable working agreement.
  • Learn about the employee’s expectations for professional growth. Recognizing and gathering relevant resources to help support and build a plan for each individual’s interests help strengthen employee loyalty. Give consistent and constructive feedback about the employee’s performance.
  • Lastly, get feedback about your performance. You’re a manager as well as a member of a team. How well you respond to feedback from your teammates will influence your team’s synergy and success.

Each employee should come out of every formal and informal coaching meeting with a strong picture of both the specific performance goals to achieve and how his or her contributions impact the department and the company as a whole.

impactAction: If you’re interested in learning more about employee coaching, contact us at info@impacthrllc.com or 443-741-3900.

impactHR Contributes to Nyla Technology Solutions’ Schools Fundraiser

We were delighted to join in contributing last week to our client Nyla Technology Solutions3rd Annual Back-to-School fundraising drive to help reach their goal of $5,000 to buy 10 Chromebooks for Baltimore City’s Collington Square Elementary/Middle School.

Through last week, the Nyla Technology Solutions’ team exceeded their goal, raising $6,450 for Chromebook purchases for students.

While the fundraiser’s raffle period to win a 2-in-1 Touch Screen Chromebook is completed, you can still make a donation! Learn more.

VA Minimum Wage to Increase to $9.50/Hour on May 1, 2021

Virginia’s state minimum wage will increase to $9.50/hour (from its current rate of $7.25/hour) on May 1, 2021.

After this initial step, the state’s minimum wage is scheduled to rise to $11/hour on January 1, 2022, and to $12/hour on January 1, 2023.

In addition, according to the law firm JacksonLewis, Virginia’s new minimum wage rates will apply anew to the following categories of workers who have historically been exempt from the state’s minimum wage requirement:

  • Individuals employed in domestic service or in a private home (e.g., nannies and au pairs)
  • Individuals who normally work and are paid according to the amount of work done or completed
  • Individuals whose earning capacity is limited due to physical deficiency, mental illness or intellectual disability
  • Individuals employed by small businesses (those with four employees or less)

JacksonLewis also notes the Virginia General Assembly, by July 1, 2024, plans to consider further gradual minimum wage increases up to $15/hour, which would be set to take effect by January 1, 2026.