For the past year and change, many of us have been reallocated to working remotely. Since then, the spotlight on conversations surrounding mental health have illuminated even brighter. Not only have they become more common and normalized, but most importantly, they have become validated. These conversations are bringing to light what many have already experienced for some time—that our mental health can drastically affect our quality of life and the way it impacts our work-life, especially now when so many are working remotely.
It is an entirely new frontier to have these conversations in professional spaces. In recent years, the acceptance of taking a mental health day has become more commonplace, and since the Covid-19 pandemic Sun Life Financial has doubled the amount of personal emergency days from 5 to 10.
Mental health can severely impact focus and performing multiple tasks at once could prove difficult for an employee suffering from these issues. The statistics show a higher number affected than one might think, Up to 3% of all Canadians will suffer from S.A.D (Seasonal Affective Disorder) in their lifetime.
This is most commonly explained by the lack of sunlight one may be exposed to during the winter months. Employees working office jobs may find themselves to very little light exposure as they are inside for most of the day. Symptoms of this disorder are extreme lethargy, consistent low mood, and irritability, and this most often presents higher employee absence and lower productivity. These days, when many employees are working from home, it is even more vital to give them the tips they need as they can feel even more distanced from support.
As a result from S.A.D, employees may judge themselves as lazy or incompetent. It is vital to support employees during this time and acknowledge that they are doing their best. Here are a few ways an employer can support their employees through S.A.D:
- Help break the stigma and open the conversation around mental health first
- Leverage remote work tools and solutions to provide employees with all the company resources available
- Promote a work life balance, if feasible allow employees to have flexible hours
- Encourage staff to take their breaks
- Stress the importance of unplugging from their phones
- Schedule 1-on-1 meetings once a week or every other week to help them feel connected
- Create a good working environment, ensuring they have a designated break room
- Organize virtual employee gatherings
- Ensure employees get the recognition they deserve
Although the discussion surrounding mental health has come a long way, many may still feel shame in coming forward and speaking about how they are feeling with their managers. This has the potential to turn into a vicious cycle of emotions. To ensure employees feel comfortable speaking about their struggles, it is important for administrators to foster an environment that is open and welcoming so their employees know they will be supported with whatever they need- even if these talks have to happen virtually.