Trauma Expert Shares Four Leadership Strategies To Support Employee Mental Health

Employee mental health is no longer something companies can ignore. Studies show that 40% of the US adult population may experience adverse mental health effects as a result of the pandemic, with 26% having clinical symptoms of a trauma-related disorder. This is the first time in recent history that organizations have had to consider the mental health needs of their workforce as a major public health concern for their businesses.

In the wake of the pandemic, 70% of employers reported They plan to start, continue or expand investment in mental health benefits. But according to Rebecca Brown, a professor of social work who specializes in trauma and employee assistance program provider for LLBean Inc, improving benefits alone won’t cure the whole problem. She shares that in the post-pandemic workplace, companies will need to prioritize human recovery alongside production.

Brown, also an organizational consultant and mental health clinician, advocates that in addition to increasing mental health benefits, organizations must also help leaders understand the impact of recent events, normalize the adversities of the pandemic, and implement strategies that support healing for employees and the organization as a whole. Here are some of the ways leaders can do this.

Remember that the effects of the epidemic are not over yet

Although the worst of the pandemic is over, the impact on people’s mental health is not. According to Brown, it is critical that leaders not attempt to return to business as usual, and instead acknowledge that employees may have experienced fundamental shifts in their values, perspectives, thoughts and feelings as a result of the past few years. Leaders should expect a wide range of responses from employees and realize that these are natural consequences of what people have experienced both personally and professionally.

Employees may respond by:

  • Shows signs of stress, difficulty concentrating, or having strong feelings at work.
  • Avoidance or reluctance to deal with colleagues.
  • Feeling overwhelmed and overwhelmed by the changing demands of changing routines related to safety protocols, mixed work, or other changes that require people to adapt quickly.

When leaders see these behaviors, it is important to remember that they may be potential consequences of the pandemic and are not always indicative of a lack of competence. Instead of going straight to correct behavior or feedback, leaders should stop, think, and then investigate curiously.

Brown recommends that leaders exercise more broadly acknowledgment of the changes and impacts that may have occurred to individuals and their teams. This can create an environment in which employees feel safe enough to participate. At LLBean, “I have seen employees express their true gratitude when leaders take the time to stop and name these shared experiences and commonalities. It creates communication and can reduce feelings of isolation.”

see don’t solve

One of the most important actions leaders can take is simply to listen to their people. Brown encourages leaders to keep in mind that “when people are struggling, all too often they just need someone to witness their pain, acknowledge their experience, and sit by their side in the chaos. This is part of the recovery process.” Brown acknowledges that leaders who are used to feeling competent, having answers, and being expert problem solvers may feel uncomfortable when they have an employee who is struggling, but being present and listening without judgment is often the best way to provide support. “Sitting with this discomfort side by side with an employee can be a powerful step toward moving forward and feeling supported by leaders and the organization as a whole.”

create meaning

Meaning-making is a powerful way for humans to transcend negative events and adapt to new realities. Leaders can help support their employees by paying attention to how their employees’ perspectives have changed or changed over the past two years.

To do this, leaders must take time to explore how employees individually and collectively think about their work and how it has changed. By allowing employees to apply these new insights and ideas about how they approach work in the future, they can maximize growth potential after the pandemic.

Leaders can ask questions like, “How did this experience change your approach to your work?” “What have you learned about yourself or your job and how would you like to apply this learning to your future work?” Creating meaning in the workplace can be a useful step in building hope for the future.

Building a team culture that prioritizes wellbeing

While attention to general health needs is essential in times of stress, leaders need to go beyond simply encouraging people to practice self-care, and instead nurture an environment of self-care. Brown shares that while highlighting the perks of wellness can be beneficial in the short term, placing the responsibility for wellness solely on the employee shifts the burden of recovery back to the individual who may already be suffering. In her work as an EAP provider to teams at LLBean Inc. You regularly hear from employees how grateful they are to be part of a company that values ​​their well-being, especially at this extraordinary moment in time, and provides active support.

It is about employing organizational strategies that provide opportunities to rest, organize, and reflect. As a leader who has a huge impact on the culture of their teams, this can be accomplished with simple actions.

  • Establish a culture where people are recognized for taking care of themselves, slowing down, and getting away. After all, these are also the essential ingredients for successful problem solving, creativity and innovation. The best place to start is for leaders to share how they set boundaries, walk away, take care of themselves, and celebrate when others do the same.
  • Create ways to help people undo work and/or slow down part of your role as a leader. If employees are experiencing barriers to doing so, it may be time to have a deeper conversation about priorities and expectations.
  • Make work-life integration a frequent conversation with direct reports and with teams. Simply ask, “What did you do in the last week to get laid off?” Or “give an example of a work limit you recently set” can do much to provide permission and encouragement to meet one’s needs. While these limits sometimes go against the intuition of productivity, they are essential to a culture of longevity and sustainability.

Brown stresses that workplace strategies do not replace essential behavioral health treatment for those with mental health symptoms. It is critical that people who need treatment and additional support have access to the appropriate level of care. She also shares that “Recovery and healing are not linear. There will be moments of great discomfort and moments of triumph, but if leaders aim to understand their employees’ epidemiological experiences and care about what helps them cope and adapt today, they can become agents of hope. And hope can be a powerful supportive force.” at work “.

The impact of the pandemic on employee well-being is far from over. Leaders who seize the opportunity to lead with empathy and prioritize post-pandemic adaptation will have a resilient and capable workforce invested in organizational success. For leaders, being part of the recovery process is not only good for business, it means being part of the greater good.

McKinsey & CompanyNational surveys reveal a disconnect between employees and employers about the need for mental health

Centers for Disease Control and PreventionMental health, substance use, and suicidal ideation during…


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