Many people have been having a tough time lately. Here’s how to support employee mental health in difficult times – and always.
Ignoring employee mental health can have heavy costs for any type of business. Reports have stated that employee mental health issues cost the UK and US economies billions of dollars annually. In fact, according to research from NAMI, 62% of missed workdays in the US are related to a mental health condition.
And, of course, there is also the cost for the employee. Aside from the direct effects on a person’s state of mind, mental health conditions are correlated with an assortment of negative health outcomes, including heart disease, diabetes, and gastrointestinal problems. We would all do well to be as supportive and as integrative with our approach to this issue as possible.
Mental health in the wake of the lockdown
Recent months have had a massive impact on mental health, resulting in what some are calling a crisis. Several studies have found that people are feeling significantly more anxious, stressed, and depressed than they were before the COVID-19 pandemic. This is for obvious reasons – the economy went into a freefall, people lost their jobs and their livelihoods, we have been isolated and alone, and we’re all dealing with a level of fear and uncertainty unlike any other we’ve dealt with in our lifetimes. And about so many things! Our jobs, our health, the health of our friends, loved ones and children, the state of the economy and the employment landscape… it is a lot to deal with.
In spa and wellness, this stress is compounded by other factors. The fact that spa employees are often sensitive, healing-type personalities with a tendency to absorb and react to the emotions of others, is one. The requirement to be in close proximity with guests for prolonged periods of time is another. Your team members are not in a position to employ social distancing. As a result, your team members may find themselves coping with more mental health issues than they have in the past. These are the people who are expected to support and provide healing services to your valued guests. Are you ready to support them?
Creating mental health policies
If you do not have policies regarding mental health, you should consider creating them. These are designed to provide assistance to those who experience mental health issues and to promote a safe workplace environment. These policies create a supportive atmosphere, let everyone know they’re on the same page, and are guidelines for when something happens. Don’t wait for a question to arise to which you don’t have the answer. Even better if you are part of an organization that includes mental health in your benefits plan. Mental health is as important as physical health. Expanding the scope of your benefits to include related therapies and treatments will help employees understand and manage their mental health and will also benefit your business.
Here are 5 ways that spa managers and directors can support employee mental health in the workplace.
1. Open the conversation. Managers should communicate with their teams, let them know that the door is open and that there will be no negative judgement. According to the Harvard Business Review, 40% of respondents to a survey conducted early in the COVID-19 pandemic said that their company had not even asked them how they were doing. They also found that employees who said their manager is not good at communicating were 23% more likely to experience mental health declines.
2. Listen. It’s not always easy, but listening without judgement will go a long way towards growing your team’s confidence in you. If someone comes to you to talk about an issue, do your best to listen more and talk little, if you talk at all. This HBR article also points out that reciprocation can be a powerful trust-building tool, and suggests that you might want to open up and share something about your own struggles as well.
3. Share available resources. Let your team know what resources you offer and what is available to them. If you don’t offer benefits or your employees are freelancers or contractors, create a list of local talk therapists and other professional mental health resources to offer team members who come to you for help. Let your employees know you’ve put some thought into supporting them. The knowledge that their employer has their backs will be helpful in alleviating stress and anxiety.
4. Keep the door open. The conversation around mental health isn’t a one-time thing, where you let everyone know your door is open, hand out a resource checklist, and forget about it. You should keep doing regular temperature checks and remind people that they can come to their manager if they need to. This means talking to individuals and doing regular check-ins. If you suspect that a team member is struggling or having a problem, reach out to them and ask if they are OK. Let them know they can talk to you.
5. Don’t overwork your employees. We’ve talked a lot in the past about employee burnout and what a huge problem it is in spa and wellness. Managers have a big tendency to push team members to fit in more appointments than they can cope with and to work longer hours than is reasonable. This costs businesses in more ways than one. Now, with added cleaning measures between appointments and the added stress of fear of the virus, it’s more important than ever not to burn your team members out.
Employee mental health is something we need to support today and always. We will be universally better off if we support our employees with humanity, grace, trust, and kindness.