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Fostering Employee Mental Health Amid Challenges

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From Covid-19 to the war in Ukraine to the impact of climate change, there's a lot to worry about right now. Since you cannot solve these problems as an individual, they can weigh on you. These worries inevitably have an impact on the workplace: those who feel anxious often suffer from tension and difficulty concentrating.

What can HR managers do to support the mental health of their employees?

The data situation is bleak: A study by the DAK showed that in 2021 there were an average of 265 days of absence for every 100 insured people in Germany due to mental illnesses. In addition, 75% of employees stated that they need psychological support but are not (yet) receiving it (at the time of the survey).

These numbers alone are alarming. And they should be reason enough for employers to make mental health a priority. Especially now, when it seems that one catastrophe follows the next, it is time.

Tip #1 – Offer empathy and flexibility

Every person deals with situations differently. Our first tip is to show empathy and offer conversations in which emotions, thoughts and fears can find their own space.

After all, it is not always easy to address and discuss these topics. This can also put a strain on mental health, especially for HR managers. In our “Corporate Sanity” guide from you will find useful tips on how you as a manager or HR manager can deal with these issues.

Additionally, create room for flexibility. Employees who can take a short break when necessary are more motivated and focused afterwards.

Flexible working hours are also a great help if employees want to donate their time to military operations. Becoming and staying active in this way can counteract feelings of helplessness and have a positive impact on employee well-being.

Tip #2 - Make a clear, shared statement

Setting an example together can counteract the feeling of helplessness. For example, you can get involved as a whole team and support people who are directly affected by war. You can collect donations or even help find accommodation or jobs for refugees.

As an employer, you should lead by example and actively facilitate opportunities for meaningful action. Show your employees that their fears are valid and work together to make a difference.

Tip #3 – Raise Executive Awareness

Ultimately, the HR department has a crucial role to play in times of crisis and when introducing support strategies. But everything starts with the managers.

If you don’t activate your leaders, you run the risk of your employees getting lost in the middle. Measures suggested by the HR department are not implemented in everyday work (and are therefore completely ineffective).

Whether in groups or individually, you should first try to train your managers. Because the better they are trained, the better it is for the employees and the general atmosphere in the organization.

Managers are multipliers for your culture. So, you have to anchor the careful handling of psychological stress in a company. In times of crisis it will become clear whether you are successful.

Tip #No. 4 - Take care of yourself

As an HR manager, sometimes you no longer have control. However, you can set a good example. Here are seven important self-care tips:

  • Take a news detox: Limit your news consumption. Start and end your day with a positive attitude. 24/7 consumption of news and updates on social media can - and should - fall somewhere in between.
  • Create the right environment: Surround yourself with people who encourage you, stay active, and make sure you enjoy the outdoors.
  • Maintain a sense of control: You don't have complete control over everything that happens. Focus on what you can control and try not to get too worked up about everything else.
  • Refuse responsibility: It is not your fault that there is injustice all over the world. It's also not your responsibility to let it keep you up at night.
  • Accept your feelings: Fears and anxieties are a normal part of life. Accept them because it's okay not to feel good all the time (especially during difficult times).
  • Press pause: Tasks piling up can cause stress and prevent you from taking care of yourself. Give yourself permission to take a break for your own mental health.
  • Seek professional help: If you are in distress, speak to a healthcare professional.

Tip #No. 5 - Help colleagues affected by crises

Overall, clearly communicating that safety and health comes before everything else will undoubtedly help your business. This is especially true when your colleagues are directly affected by crises. In such cases, you should clarify some basic things:

  • Inform HR about how salary payments can be guaranteed or what alternative payment options are available.
  • Establish a company policy on advance payments
  • Consider what your company can do to keep employees safe
  • Clarify what support options are available, for example in the event of a move

Communicating these offerings clearly will give your employees peace of mind. You can also find helpful tips for the HR department on the current situation in Ukraine on this Notion page.

Tip #6 – Seek professional support for your mental health

An honest conversation with HR may not be the solution for every employee. Especially during times of extreme stress or to prevent extreme stress, you should consider bringing in outside experts who can help. This has a number of advantages:

Confidentiality: What is discussed in a counseling session stays there. There are no conflicts of interest and all concerns and thoughts can be expressed freely without straining organizational relationships.

Professional help: Of course, it's good to talk to your closest friends or colleagues. But trained professionals can make well-founded recommendations and offer the right support if you are experiencing

psychological stress. However, it is important to know that short-term professional help cannot replace the value of long-term therapy.

Specific support: Experts can address individual situations and therefore offer unbeatable added value compared to general tips that can be found on the Internet.

Remember that every person reacts differently to crises

The current world situation is anything but simple. But if you as an HR manager approach it with empathy, flexibility and even outside expertise, your company can have a lasting positive impact on your employees.

Remember that it is okay and even important to talk openly about your fears and concerns, even as a leader. Show your employees that everyone in the company is going through difficult times in their lives and that it's okay if you're not feeling well.

Don't forget the importance of creating an open space where feelings can (but don't have to) be discussed and offering your employees the support they so desperately need in this situation.

In the face of global challenges impacting employee mental health, IceHrm advocates for compassionate leadership, fostering a workplace culture of empathy, flexibility, and professional support. By prioritizing mental well-being, organizations can navigate crises with resilience and care.

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