An article contribution by Zurich
Mental health issues among employees are more manageable when leaders are aware of how their actions can make a difference. And employees are finding that speaking up does not carry the risk that it used to.
At a time when stress is hard to avoid, managers and employees are sharing the responsibility of making sure that mental health issues don’t take hold in the workplace, and, if they do, are handled with care and compassion.
“We have a collective opportunity to care for each other,” says Nadia Younes, Zurich’s Head of Employee Experience, D&I and Wellbeing. “We spend a lot of time working with our colleagues and the pandemic has really shown us the value employees place in feeling cared for and in caring for one another.” During the pandemic, many employees working from remote locations are facing a variety of challenges, anxieties and perhaps a sense of isolation, according to Ms. Younes. But, she adds, remote working is not in and of itself the cause of these things. “It’s how we’re working remotely.”
“Leaders can help by setting clear expectations around priorities, deadlines and deliverables and then empowering employees to take the flexibility they need to manage their work and home lives effectively,” Ms. Younes advised. COVID has introduced a lot more uncertainty into everyone’s lives. The more leaders can show appreciation and be mindful not to overload employees with too many competing priorities, the more likely employees will be able to sustain high levels of motivation, productivity and resiliency during the pandemic and beyond. There is a lot to manage at work and at home for many of us these days so seeking out resources or help to keep mentally healthy (as well as physically, socially and financially since we know these can be interconnected) is something we are providing a variety of resources for across Zurich.
Balancing influence and concern
Employees feeling stressed or anxious should feel free to speak up and seek guidance, she notes, which is a big step towards removing the stigma around mental health challenges. And while managers are learning to be more receptive when employees express concern about their mental health, they can also play a big role in making the work environment a more preventative and supportive place.
Managers are being coached to recognize signs when employees are affected by stress, anxiety or other conditions, Ms. Younes explains. While helpful, that approach needs to be combined more systematically with coaching managers how to create healthy, collaborative and inclusive work environments. It is certainly right to be concerned about the mental health challenges employees are faced with today and managers can do a lot to ensure that the work environment supports mental health. More emphasis is needed on what she called a “circle of influence rather than a circle of concern.” Managers and leaders have a lot of influence on how employees experience the workplace.
Long before COVID-19, Zurich developed a global holistic ‘Wellbeing Framework’ that provides Zurich employees with the tools and resources to help them stay healthy and empowered. Zurich supports measures that encourages its employees to create a brighter, healthier future together and to grow in the four dimensions of wellbeing – physical, social, mental and financial. Among its aims is to reduce the stigma of mental health issues and foster health-promoting work environments. The framework provides advice on such activities as exercise and healthy eating to promoting inclusiveness and flexible work arrangements. Mindfulness sessions and financial workshops are also promoted.
Awareness of mental health challenges was heightened by the recent observation of Mental Health Day, a global recognition of the importance of destigmatizing mental health challenges and taking steps to prevent and manage them. Zurich believes such awareness should remain in place every day, year-round, and has put in place a number of initiatives at its locations around the world that help employees and managers prevent, identify and address mental health challenges (see related story).