Workplace Wellbeing

Returning to Work: Bridging the Gap Between Mental Health and Physical Safety

A back-to-work plan must consider mental health as a key priority. Here are four ways you can bridge the gap between mental and physical health for your team.

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Spring Health
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    Is your team ready to return to the workplace? Many employees are experiencing a variety of emotions as they consider coming back to the office. While some are ready to get out of the house, others are concerned that businesses are opening too soon.

    To address the physical health risks of the coronavirus pandemic, businesses have incorporated cleaning and social distancing plans to help keep employees safe. However, many employers who have taken important measures to keep teams physically healthy have not fully considered mental health concerns. Because anxieties have risen greatly during this pandemic, it's essential to take the emotions of all employees into consideration when creating a plan to reopen business.

    A back-to-work plan must consider mental health as a key priority. Here are four ways HR leaders can bridge the gap between mental health and physical safety for your team.

    Communicate with openness and transparency

    Much of the anxiety stemming from the pandemic is caused by uncertainty. Employees may wonder what safety protocols are being employed, and whether they are enough to keep them from contracting COVID-19. Employees may also be worried about the financial effects of the coronavirus crisis. They may fear furloughs or layoffs—and the impact such an event may have on their personal lives.

    It's important to address questions and concerns that your employees have. They may be worried about losing their jobs if they're not comfortable returning to work. Since many schools remain closed, employees may not be comfortable sending their kids to daycare yet or may not have the means to do so. Employees with medical conditions may be at a higher risk for infection, causing anxiety if they return while the virus is still spreading.

    This is why it’s important to openly communicate with your employees by addressing their fears for the future. To start, gather employee input on what they feel constitutes safely returning to work. During this time, make sure that there are no communication gaps to ensure a smoother transition back into the work environment.

    Incorporate both mental and physical health into your plan

    The CDC has released guidelines to help businesses keep their employees safe and prevent the spread of infection. These guidelines are a great first step toward ensuring physical safety, but do not fully address the mental well being of employees. Therefore, employers need to take additional steps to provide employees with mental health support.

    The COVID-19 crisis has affected everyone differently, and companies will see different reactions from employees as they return to work. In April of this year, around 70% of Americans experienced mental distress ranging from moderate to severe. Compared to data taken in 2018, the number of people experiencing mental distress has tripled. Between the social isolation, economic issues, and concerns regarding health, most Americans are experiencing mental health issues.

    Companies need to be pay attention to signs of emotional distress from employees. Some signs can include irritability, anger, absenteeism from work, difficulty concentrating, difficulty making decisions, or difficulty getting back into the work routine. Educating managers, supervisors, and employees of what signs to be aware of and encouraging them to seek help if they began noticing signs of emotional distress should become part of any return-to-work plan.

    Share your plan with your employees

    Employee input will be immensely helpful when creating a back-to-work plan. Assess any concerns they have and consider solutions that might make them feel more comfortable.

    Also, communicate what efforts your company will put into place for the mental health and physical health of all employees. If your business is currently putting a plan into action, communicate this to your employees and let them know what plans you've started. Tell your employees what to expect when they come back to work and what your company plans on doing to alleviate their concerns about workplace safety.

    Encourage employees to discuss their emotions about returning to work. If they feel hesitant, overwhelmed, or anxious, let them know that therapy is available should they decide they want to use it. Continue to encourage open communication and assure employees that they are able to voice their concerns whenever they’d like to.

    Ensure your mental health plan is customized for each team member

    Navigating COVID-19 safety and reopening businesses during a pandemic is new territory for everybody. Therefore, any return-to-work plan should be flexible enough to fit the needs of a variety of employees—especially as people's needs tend to change over time.

    Many employers provide mental health benefits for their employees, but often these solutions are difficult to access or take a one-size-fits-all approach to care. One team member may need immediate psychiatric care, while another would most benefit from doing a daily meditation via a phone app. Look for a mental health solution that addresses the full spectrum of employees needs and provides customized, proven solutions.

    Spring Health provides employers with a comprehensive solution for their teams’ mental wellbeing. We combine AI technology with personal attention: We use a proprietary assessment to ensures each member receives the right care from the start, and we match each member with a clinically-licensed Care Navigator to guide them throughout their mental health journey.

    About the Author
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    Spring Health

    Spring Health is a comprehensive mental health solution for employers and health plans. Unlike any other solution, we use clinically validated technology called Precision Mental Healthcare to pinpoint and deliver exactly what will work for each person—whether that’s meditation, coaching, therapy, medication, and beyond. Today, Spring Health supports over 4,500 organizations, from startups to multinational Fortune 500 corporations, and is a preferred mental health provider to companies like General Mills, Bain, and DocuSign.

    About the clinical reviewer
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