Leading With Compassion

Now, more than ever, it is important to be mindful of employees’ entire wellbeing.

Being responsible for employee safety is a lot more than checking off the boxes on a list that tells you whether or not you are compliant with industry standards handed down by OSHA or any other organization tasked with designing rules for safety. Truly being responsible for the safety of workers is to understand the daily movements, the thinking behind each one and the mindset of your employees each and every day they show up to work–physically or virtually.

There has been a lot of information put out by OSHA and the CDC on how to take care of your employees’ physical health during these uncertain times, but what we might be missing out on is ensuring the mental health of employees as well. It is a lot to ask of someone to come into work, set all other things aside and focus on the task at hand–especially when that employee might be internally focused on a sick friend, concerned about a family member who is out of work or preoccupied with their child returning to school.

According to research done by Mind Share Partners and Qualtrics, 60 percent of employees will experience symptoms of a mental health condition this year, and the current environment will only increase that number. Take this opportunity to eliminate the stigma of mental health in your company so that employees feel safe and comfortable to seek out options for help.

To do this, safety professionals must work with the C-Suite to acknowledge the impact of the situation on mental health and make it abundantly clear that the mental wellbeing of all employees is something company cares about and prioritizes. Keep employees up-to-date on COVID-19-related practices at work and be open if employees have questions, are hesitant or need time to re-learn common procedures with new and additional steps.

Make sure employees are aware of any mental health opportunities your company offers. Remind them of these regularly and through multiple channels of communication. Make these resources easy to find and simple to understand.

It is important to lead with compassion in this time of uncertainty. Be flexible and accommodating to the needs of individual employees, be generous if you can and more importantly, be honest and be human. Now, more than ever, it is important to be mindful of employees’ entire wellbeing.

This article originally appeared in the September 2020 issue of Occupational Health & Safety.

About the Author

Sydny Shepard is the former editor of Occupational Health & Safety.

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