The corona crisis has no comparison. There have been epidemics before, but for a pandemic of this magnitude, there is no playbook ready that outlines what the next few months will look like. Not everyone is in the position to deal with this flexibly or resiliently.
What can you do to support colleagues?
1. Offer perspective, and hope
We are now dealing with major uncertainties. Experiencing stress and uncertainty in times of crisis is a normal reaction. It is very important to offer people a perspective, a dot on the horizon. Even if it is still far away and the route towards it is not exactly mapped out and simple.
The corona crisis turns out not to be a sprint but a marathon. Explain that this is disappointing, but that a marathon also has to end. The fact that we are running that marathon together gives many people support.
Make people aware of their own strength. Mental complaints are part of a crisis like this one and for most people they disappear once the crisis is over. People are more resilient than they often think.
2. Provide daytime structure
When the standard day structure is removed all at once, not everyone succeeds in giving meaning to their day. People do not always find it easy to focus and boredom increases. In combination with the loss of social contacts, this has led to an increase in anxiety and depression.
Having a daily structure is enormously important for mental health. Make sure that daily work can continue, even if it is in a different form as a result of the corona measures. Support colleagues who work at home in finding new healthy day structure.
3. Keep contact
Corona measures make it harder to meet one of the most important human needs: that of (physical) contact and connection with others. People who experience social isolation and loneliness often have weaker immunity and suffer from depression more often.
The negative impact of the corona crisis is often less if online contact is (partly) possible. However, not everyone can handle digital solutions well, let alone have access to them.
Look for an appropriate ‘heartbeat’ for communication. Already reach out more to colleagues who are at risk of loneliness.
4. Stimulate development and challenges
It is important that there are opportunities to develop new skills, networks and habits needed to face the new situation. Be careful that focusing on output does not weaken the focus on development and training.
Look for sufficient challenge and assess how good people already are at skills such as collaboration and empathy.
5. Stimulate a healthy lifestyle
A healthy lifestyle is more important than ever. By living a healthy life and getting enough exercise, people can better cope with stress and adversity.
Stress, anxiety, loneliness and boredom are frequently cited reasons for the increase in unhealthy behavior.
Encourage and facilitate opportunities for outdoor activities. Policies aimed at a healthy environment, whether mental or physical health, are not a responsibility of the HR department alone. Make sure the responsibility for this is widely felt.
6. Stimulate people to be in control
Especially when measures are drastic, it can create tension. When people feel that they have no control over their lives, and the government takes over, it causes stress and depression symptoms.
Accepting measures from an employer is easier when it is clear that they are necessary, consistent, and when it is clear that there is a real focus on groups who will be affected.
Some people need a push to think about what is still possible. Challenge them to discover new things that are still possible, for example by sharing good examples.
7. Offer assistance where needed
Mobilize the manager as the first point of contact when people cannot manage on their own. Equip them to recognize and discuss mental health problems more effectively.
Invest in and promote (online) support in the field of mental health