Mental Health and Work in a Modern Day Pandemic

Jan 29, 2021
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Leah Dugan
Recruiter
Mental Health Matters

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The Pandemic Carries On

As we headed into the 8th, 9th, then 10th month of this global pandemic, I couldn't help but notice a bit of a shift among my co-workers and friends. Many people’s moods seemed even lower than before. Everyone was ‘Zoomed out, non-essential meetings and virtual Happy Hours began to fade. Mental health check-ins replaced chit-chats. It seemed as if intense fatigue was setting in for just about everyone. The first mentions of ‘pandemic fatigue’ began to make their way into my lexicon in fall of last year. And now, it seemed as if new levels of this fatigue were setting in. 

 

The psychological impact of this pandemic on those most directly affected (those infected with the virus, those who have lost loved ones, those with sick loved ones, healthcare workers, frontline workers, and folks who have lost their jobs, etc.) is acute and undeniable. But the more subtle impact on those of us who are fortunate enough to keep a version of our pre-pandemic lives intact is a bit more difficult to pinpoint. 

 

I, like many of my colleagues and family members, have been incredibly fortunate. We’re healthy and employed, which in this day and age feels like a miracle. But pandemic fatigue is impactful for us too. 

 

The Impact

According to research from late summer 2020, since the pandemic began, 42% of global employees reported experiencing a decline in their mental health. Before the pandemic, there were already studies on the ‘isolation epidemic’ we were facing. As you might imagine, this has only exacerbated as the pandemic continues, and most of us are more isolated than ever. 

 

As I work in recruiting, when confronted with cultural shifts or national or global events, it doesn’t take long for me to think, “how does this impact the workplace?”. But this time, my thoughts shifted to “how does the workplace impact this?”. 

 

I’ve heard some real horror stories about friends being forced back into offices where no safeguards were taking place and leadership appears to have their heads in the sand, attempting to run their organizations as if nothing has changed. And, of course, some of my friends have had great stories about being supported and respected by their bosses and organizations. 

 

I wanted to know what employers can do to mitigate the real, negative impacts on their employees of the prolonged pandemic. So I sat down, virtually, with Sarah Buino LCSW, RDDP, CADC, CDWF therapist, president, and founder of Head/ Heart Therapy and collaborated with Holistic for data to look for trends.


 

What can employers do to help? 

  • Communicate to employees that their health and wellbeing is of the utmost importance to you, and then follow that sentiment with aligning actions 

  • If it is feasible to allow your employees to work from home, allow them to do so

  • Do not expect productivity to stay the same or increase 

  • Don’t hold your employees to pre-pandemic levels of engagement 

  • Encourage employees to take mental health days

  • If your organization doesn’t have an EAP program, consider establishing one. Make sure employees know about it 

  • Make sure you are taking care of your own mental health and seeking help if you need it 

  • Reimburse employees for home office expenses and tech upgrades

  • Clearly communicate expectations and how they may have changed/ be changing

  • Roll with the punches; adapt your strategies, numbers, and goals to the reality of what is happening and our changing environment

  • Consider circulating some work from home best practices to give ideas of how employees can make do with their new normal work 

 

 

Closing Words

“I understand both as an employee and a business owner the pressures on both sides- I hear the struggle from people trying to keep up. People are hurting so much right now- economic stress, internal depression or isolation, and then not recognizing that the person in front of you is human and doing the best they can... If bosses focus first on the relationship before anything else, they’ll build more co-collaboration. When you have an employee that is not meeting expectations- what is happening for them, talk to them and see if accommodations need to be made. There’s a shared experience here - we’re both going through trauma.”

- Sarah Buino

 

 

Other helpful links on employee mental health 

Responding to Employee Mental Health

8 Way Managers Can Support Mental Health

Pandemic Proofing your Brain

 

 

Some General Knowledge on Trauma

Emotional & psychological symptoms of trauma:

Shock, denial, or disbelief

Confusion, difficulty concentrating

Anger, irritability, mood swings

Anxiety and fear

Guilt, shame, self-blame

Withdrawing from others

Feeling sad or hopeless

Feeling disconnected or numb

 

 

Physical symptoms of trauma:

Insomnia or nightmares

Fatigue

Being startled easily

Difficulty concentrating

Racing heartbeat

Edginess and agitation

Aches and pains

Muscle tension

 

 

Seek help for trauma if you’re:

Having trouble functioning at home or work

Suffering from severe fear, anxiety, or depression

Unable to form close, satisfying relationships

Experiencing terrifying memories, nightmares, or flashbacks

Avoiding more and more anything that reminds you of the trauma

Emotionally numb and disconnected from others

Using alcohol or drugs to feel better

 

Source: https://www.helpguide.org/articles/ptsd-trauma/coping-with-emotional-and-psychological-trauma.htm

 

 

If you’re not getting the mental health support you need, where can you turn for help? 

https://www.samhsa.gov/find-help/national-helpline

https://www.crisistextline.org/

https://www.trilogyinc.org/

https://www.heartlandhealthcenters.org/our-services/mental-health/

https://openpathcollective.org/

 

Leah Headshot
Leah Dugan
Recruiter

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