5 Ways to Combat Pandemic Anxiety in Your Employees

The pandemic has had a detrimental effect on the mental health of all Americans, with the Kaiser Family Foundation reporting 45% of American adults are experiencing increased anxiety and depression. June marked the third consecutive month of a negative score in the Mental Health Index, a survey of 5,000 American workers about their quality of life and mental health. “The findings show that even with parts of the country re-opening after nearly three months of lock down, financial risk and feelings of isolation remain the top threats to American employees' mental health,” a recent Forbes article said.

How can you empower employees to combat burnout and mental health challenges, particularly during the pandemic? Here are five ideas:

  1. Encourage employees to take their PTO. Perhaps some employees are waiting until it’s safe to take travel to use their vacation time, but it may be helpful for them to take some of that time off now. Taking a few breaks from work over the next few months can help you recharge your mental batteries, according to Jim Kendall, LCSW, CEAP, manager of Work-Life Connections for VUMC in a recent article from My Southern Health.
  2. Inspire better self-care. Create a weekly email that offers anxiety-busting ideas such as setting a consistent sleep schedule, learning to meditate and kickstarting healthier eating habits.
  3. Promote exercise. Consider competitions—bolstered by small incentives—to inspire staff to increase their physical activity. Walking and easy hikes are good options for those employees who are just getting started on a fitness plan.
  4. Urge your staff to take regular breaks from social media and the news, which churns out endless negative coverage. “Hearing about the pandemic repeatedly can be upsetting and mentally exhausting,” the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reminds us.
  5. Offer resources for building resiliency. In addition to articles on the Employer Insights blog, there are a wealth of online resources for dealing with the emotional stress of the pandemic, such as the VUMC/AllianceBernstein Mental Health podcast series; Harvard Medical School’s helpful video series; timely articles and videos from the Anxiety and Depression Association of America; and a “Coping With Stress” mini-site compiled by the CDC.