A recent survey conducted by the National Alliance of Healthcare Purchaser Coalitions found that 53% of 256 employers reported providing special emotional and mental health programs for their workforce because of the pandemic. COVID-19 has likely brought on increased stress and anxiety for most of your team, and it’s important to support their mental health needs both for their individual wellbeing and for the wellbeing of your business. According to Forrester, more than 200 million workdays are lost due to mental health conditions each year, equating to $16.8 billion lost in employee productivity.
You can’t afford to leave mental health in the background.
How to Move Employees Toward Better Mental Health
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has identified the workplace as an optimal setting to create a culture of health for several reasons, including the existing communication structures and centralized programs and policies.
However, many HR professionals leading mental health efforts don’t know how best to leverage these communication pathways. Here are four practical steps to help you create messages that resonate, drive action, and keep employees engaged.
1. Lead with Empathy
If you’re like most organizations, you’ve likely struggled with open conversations about mental health in the past. Historically, issues like anxiety and depression have been taboo subjects in the workplace, so HR departments and executive leadership have abstained from addressing them. COVID-19 has changed all that.
Shifting to a more open mindset and company culture will require empathetic, context-sensitive communication. Your employees need to know you view them as humans and not simply resources. When you recognize their humanity in your messaging, you can set yourself up as a true partner on their mental health journey
It is considered a best practice to validate concerns in health messaging, so don’t shy away from acknowledging the real mental strains and fears brought on by COVID-19. This shows your employees you’re aware of what may be overwhelming them and that you acknowledge their feelings as valid.
2. Send Mental Health-specific Messages
As part of your business reopening plan, you have a deluge of information to share about what your operations will look like in a post-heightened pandemic setting. From capacity limitations, to safety precautions, to remote-work policies, there are a lot of logistics to cover as you prepare your workforce.
Steer away from including information about mental health resources as part of these communications. Instead, send separate messages so your employees don’t miss important details related to your offerings — especially if you’re introducing a new program. Depending on your employee communication preferences, you may want to send this information via email or a collaboration tool like Slack — or both to ensure everyone sees it.
Honing in on mental health in your communications conveys to your employees that this is a priority for your organization and that you care about their access to these resources.
3. Provide User-friendly Instructions
If you’re introducing new mental health tools or reminding employees about tools they may not have used before, you’ll want to give comprehensive, step-by-step instructions for getting started. This will mitigate confusion and limit the number of follow-up questions you receive.
Consider creating both written documentation and video demos of how to use the tools to appeal to various learning styles. Exposure also helps familiarize the resources and makes employees more likely to use them, especially if the documentation includes images from the user perspective that they can interact with or put themselves into. Your mental health vendors may provide these materials, or you may need to customize your own to make them user-friendly and applicable for your employees. Be sure to house the instructions in an intuitive location that’s easy for your team to access.
4. Address Behavioral Science
To facilitate adoption of employee mental health resources, you need to understand how your employees make decisions. What cognitive biases and barriers are at play when they consider whether or not to pursue a mental health offering? When you have this knowledge, you can tailor your communications to their decision-making processes.
Most employee communications are designed to target System 2 – the conscious and logical, but slow, decision-making part of a recipient’s brain. Because of the deliberate nature of System 2, researchers estimate that only around 5% of daily decisions are made here. System 1, in comparison, accounts for around 95% of decisions. System 1 is subconscious, highly affective, and can handle many decisions quickly by relying on cognitive shortcuts and biases. Any successful behavior change initiative will need to speak to these biases that might be irrationally keeping people from a desired behavior.
Lirio’s behavior change AI platform can help improve employee engagement with these resources by developing hyper-personalized communications infused with behavioral science principles that overcome the barriers to and amplify the benefits of your programs. Then, through ongoing iterations, our platform learns people’s behavioral profiles and optimizes communications to desired behaviors.
Lirio’s Post COVID-19 Webinar Series
We’ve been exploring workforce engagement over the past few weeks in our webinar series “Re-engaging Patients and Employees Post COVID-19.”
All four episodes are now available on demand. In Episode 4, “Sustaining Employee Health & Engagement in the Post-Pandemic Reopening,” I spoke with Eric Evans, VP of Corporate Human Resources at Clayton Homes, about how to account for employees’ new mental and physical state when elevating new resources.
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Want to learn more about how Lirio’s behavioral engagement solution utilizes behavioral science and machine learning to help organizations motivate the people they serve to achieve better outcomes?