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Avert the Mental Health Crisis at Your Company

By Scott Johnson
Illustration of Carl the yeti laying on the couch looking frustrated.

There’s a pandemic. And on top of the physical health crisis that has resulted from Covid-19, we also face a mental health crisis.

image with text - now, more than ever, many people are not ok

The economic consequences of shuttering businesses and increased unemployment have historically been linked to increased suicide rates. Now, more than ever, many people are not ok.

Many people have been triggered and demoralized by national examples of racial inequity. Others have lost their jobs, their restaurant, their salons, and their dreams due to the economic impacts of Covid-19 shutdowns. Still, others have been separated from their loved ones who are most sick, unable to visit, and sometimes even unable to say good-bye before they take their last breath.

In the work culture, virtual work is the new norm. But it comes with its own host of challenges. Parents must navigate new childcare options or responsibilities thanks to virtual school or fear of the risks of exposure in daycares. Employees face being cooped up in their homes, often with no reason to leave most of the day. The isolation, loneliness, anxiety, and depression that have resulted are more than understandable under these trying circumstances.

And while 58% of employees are working harder than ever, many are losing their drive in the face of these challenges. As such, managers need to acknowledge the strain on their employees’ mental health and support them in the right ways to lead their workforce through these difficult times.

The grievances: virtual workers feel lonely and unappreciated

Employees have complaints about the way they’ve been treated during the pandemic. Employee engagement is hurting from having less support from and access to their managers and teams. Employees rated communication and collaboration as the #1 struggle with remote work, and a big form of communication they are missing is a simple, “Thank you.”

Unappreciated and lonely employees do not feel like they belong to their organization, and there are consequences for that. Motivosity’s research revealed:

  1. 68% of respondents said their motivation is waning since no one appreciates the work they’ve been doing

  2. 29% said they intend to do only what their boss expects

  3. 26% said they would take their sweet time to complete those assignments

So unless something changes, productivity, employee retention, and profit are all at serious risk.

image with text - 74 percent of respondents said their mental health would improve with more appreciation at work

The good news? Your employees want something simple and relatively inexpensive: appreciation. 74% of respondents said their mental health would improve with more appreciation at work.

Here are four ways you can step up your appreciation game:

1. Thanks matters

It’s obvious, it’s simple, it’s free! But, “Thank you!” is exactly the thing your employees need to hear. They have been through a lot during this time, they are working more and harder than ever, and they feel like their bosses haven’t even noticed.

You should be expressing your gratitude to your team members at least once a week. Some team members will prefer you do this one on one, and some will prefer the praise is more public.

There’s no shame in asking your team how they like to be thanked and listening to what they say — it shows you care. At Motivosity, we offer quick pulse surveys to gather real-time data around whether your team is feeling recognized for their work. That data can be very helpful as you seek to make each person on your team feel valued.

Our survey respondents shed some light on the top phrases they want to hear at work. See how many you can sincerely shower your team with this week:

  1. Thank you! 34%
  2. I appreciate you doing that 32%
  3. That was helpful 28%
  4. Your time is valuable 27%
  5. You went above expectations on this 25%
  6. How are you doing? 24%
  7. I know how busy you are 21%
  8. This was really well-done work 19%
  9. That’s exactly what we hoped you’d do 16%

2. Influence currency

Verbal praise can go a long way to making your team feel great about their work, but many of our survey respondents just want their employers to put their money where their mouth is. 39% said they would appreciate a small gift, and 28% just wanted cash.

A year-end bonus or holiday gift is great, but your employees need to be recognized much more often to be truly engaged in their work. Before you freak out over which gift card to hand out at your next meeting or how much cash this is going to require, consider an organized approach that has a 95% utilization rate among employees with access.

Motivosity’s software platform gives each employee a few dollars a month that they can gift to other people they work with to show appreciation for assistance, a job well done, a great attitude, or whatever contribution they feel like. The recipients can redeem these cash prizes for gift cards from hundreds of vendors of their choice, and over time they can add up!

Motivosity product screen shot of the home page showing the feed and appreciation

This type of appreciation system caters to all the ways your employees like to be recognized. There is written praise, there is a cash prize, and there is a public feed streaming wins so your whole community can celebrate together. Check, check, check.

Plus, this gets everyone involved in the process of appreciating, which really builds a sense of belonging to your organization and can help satisfy that craving for camaraderie even when your team is working remotely. It’s harder to feel lonely and disconnected when you’re receiving messages of appreciation plus some cash from several members of your team. Even better, you can integrate Motivosity software with the platforms you’re already using: Slack, Microsoft Team, and HRIS systems.

3. Mental health benefits

Even though we firmly believe that recognition will go a long way in improving the mental health of your employees, there are some really tough things going on now and, really, always.

Many companies are stepping up to offer new access to mental health resources. Some are offering free therapy sessions, webinars on mental health topics, or even supporting campaigns to promote transparency and support for mental health from people who are struggling all the way up to the c-suite.

As a manager, talking openly with your employees about your own struggles can help build a more authentic relationship, one of the three keys to employee engagement. It can also make them more comfortable opening up about their own needs during this time. Ask your employees how they are feeling and how you can help. Support from managers is needed now more than ever.

4. Be flexible: A little understanding goes a long way

Our last surefire way to improve your employees’ mental health today is to offer up a little more flexibility. Employees who are offered flexible hours to address their new challenges feel trusted and appreciated. They feel like you believe they want to do a great job and are willing to be flexible enough to help them succeed.

A few areas that might warrant some new flexibility:

  1. Scheduling meetings at times that work well across time-zones when you know your remote employees are no longer in the same area

  2. Offering a later log-on time for team members who worked late finishing up that important project the night before

  3. Adjusting expectations for facetime hours for employees working through their childcare responsibilities

  4. In some cases, even reducing work hours for some employees when needed

The stresses of the pandemic are hitting your employees hard, but they are just as capable as ever. Use these strategies to recognize them for the great work they are doing and give them the support they need to keep clocking those wins.