Before the year 2020, many individuals forecasted their vision board to be filled with milestones, whether it is achieving a promotion at work from an outlined five-year plan, relocating for a new job, or plans to build a small business with new hires. Many businesses were impacted by company shutdowns or revenue losses and had to place plans on hold. As a small business owner in the Maryland area and an advisory board member for the U.S. Chamber Foundation, I have witnessed first-hand how negative repercussions due to an unfavorable environment could impact employees’ mental health.
According to the July Small Business Coronavirus Impact Poll released by MetLife and the U.S Chamber of Commerce, nearly 70 percent of businesses were concerned about financial hardship due to prolonged closures. 48 percent of those businesses surveyed indicate hiring or promoting employees could take up to one year. With a second wave of the virus projected for the end of this year, this may have wide-ranging implications on a business’ revenue. This report from a Willis Towers Watson study of over 700 U.S. companies suggests that one in three companies (35 percent) have reduced their projections for pay raises after learning the pandemic’s impact on business revenue.
The initial step for any business owner looking to address mental health in their workplace is to try and learn the signs of decline in mental health before it has a much larger domino effect. The top six warning signs for workplace mental health, as outlined in the Discovery Mood & Anxiety Program, can help employers detect behaviors resulting from mental health issues:
- Appearance: Noticing a difference in how individuals dress or carry themselves around the office or while on a virtual meeting that is inconsistent or atypical to what they normally wear or how they carry themselves.
- Constant mood swings and other erratic behavior: It is normal for mood swings to occur while on the job, but when it becomes inconsistent or shown through extreme highs and lows, it may be a mental health concern.
- Unusual work patterns: While many individuals may just need a day off occasionally, individuals who take several days off unexpectedly may feel that their mental health could be interfering with their work and concentration.
- Behavioral changes: Individuals faced with a decline in their mental health may show early signs through their eating habits or sharing with others that they constantly have difficulty sleeping.
- Consistent “brain fog:” Having a difficult time focusing, solving problems, or getting easily confused, could be a sign of a decline in mental health.
- Social withdrawal: Individuals who seem withdrawn from participating in the social culture at work, when they typically would, could be a symptom of mental illness. Isolation, loneliness, and self-loathing have been common signs in individuals with mental health decline.
If an employee’s mental health is altered due to discouragement at work, there are strategies employers can implement to help manage mental health decline and boost company morale. Some of these suggestions include:
- Provide regular recognition to staff and integrate recognizing others’ achievements as a core value, not just the responsibility for managers or superiors to recognize staff, but for all to actively participate in acknowledging others.
- Give employees an opportunity to grow, allowing them to be creative in their job’s responsibilities and check in on what resources they have and would need to improve the performance of that role.
- Treat employees as your most valuable and significant asset.
As the end of the year approaches, conversations around raises and promotions will have precedence in the workplace – if not already discussed. Business owners should be mindful of addressing their plans, while keeping the employee’s mental health top of mind, such as how they will be impacted by those decisions. To further this approach, businesses should be concerned for their employee’s mental health year-round and suggest ways to keep their employees in high spirits, such as celebrating special occasions and both small and big wins. In the long run, by keeping your employees happy and healthy, they will in turn be more loyal to the job and the company.