Guest Column: Psychology Month a good time for employers to create better workplaces for those stressed out by COVID-19

Employees and employers are stressed out by continuing restrictions and changes due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Photo: Submitted.

By BRANDY HUFF

Whether you’ve been weathering the COVID-19 pandemic solo or with your family, personal stress levels are at an all-time high — and of course, a major factor in this is professional stress.

The pressure to perform while working from home in social isolation has increased anxiety and depression to four and two times pre-pandemic levels, respectively (according to Mental Health Research Canada). And without things like watercooler banter and in-person lunch dates, many of us are lacking the social interaction that would otherwise help us cope.

As for employers, attempting to run their businesses while navigating the constant changes to government regulations and public health guidelines, keeping employees engaged and performing their best has become a major challenge.

One of the goals of Psychology Month, celebrating the contributions of Canadian psychologists, is to educate Canadians on the ways psychology works, helping people to live happier, healthier lives.

With the second wave well underway, here are three things employers can do this Psychology Month to create better workplaces — and have a positive impact on the psychology of their employees.

Encourage Exercise & Fresh Air

According to Mental Health Research Canada, Canadians say that spending time outside is having a more positive effect on their mental health during the pandemic.

Although getting out for a walk during the workday may not be possible for some, having a coffee break on a veranda or participating in physical activity indoors will also go a long way.

Virtual exercise programs for your employees are an excellent way to boost mood-regulating chemicals, not to mention giving your employees something to talk about and bond over. If hiring a professional is not in your budget, try a yoga or exercise YouTube video over a lunch-hour Zoom, or implement a 30-minute walk break for your team to go outside. They’ll feel better, their mood will improve, and their productivity is likely to increase.

Spark Laughter

Laughter is a powerful thing, protecting us from the damaging effects of stress. And with all the uncertainty in the world, it’s more important than ever.

If it’s within your means, consider hiring a company to put on a virtual comedy event for you and your employees. A number of companies offer reasonably priced, professional virtual comedy shows designed to evoke smiles and office banter.

Give Thanks & Offer Virtual Peer Support

Acknowledge how hard people have been working to juggle all aspects of their lives, and thank them for continuing to support your business during times of uncertainty.

Let them know you care about their wellbeing, and offer resources for virtual peer support for those in need. If hiring a professional for your company is not feasible or your group benefits do not cover it, look for free alternatives such as Mental Wellness Peer-to-Peer Support Groups.

Remember, all of these tips apply to business owners, too! We are all feeling the pressures of the pandemic, but together, we can take action to make those pressures feel a little lighter.

Happy Psychology Month to all.

Brandy Huff is a Beaches-East York small business owner who runs B. Huff Consulting Group which specializes in marketing and communications, events, and public and government relations. Huff is also co-founder of East End Parents 4 Public Education.

 


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