Importance of mental health during COVID-19

Guidance on how to spot signs that an employee and/or a colleague is struggling and start a delicate conversation.

COVID-19 has hugely impacted how we go about our lives and lives of others around us. Some of the effects of COVID-19 such as fear, bereavement, isolation and financial loss are resulting in mental health conditions or aggravating existing ones. As a result, it's important that you look out for your employees and/or colleagues, especially those who are working remotely.

What are the signs you need to watch out for?

  • Behavioural changes like how they communicate, the way they respond to situations, their energy and enthusiasm, time-keeping or even their appearance could be an indication that their mental wellbeing is under strain. Your employees and/or colleagues working alone are at risk of social isolation; therefore, you should make sure that there are regular opportunities to keep in touch and to bring that person together with the rest of the team (even if this is by email, telephone conferences, video conferences, etc.)
  • If one of your employees and/or colleague who is usually low or reserved suddenly turns a corner and becomes the most talkative person in the room, it may be worth checking in with them. This can be hard to measure, but positive behaviour change can be a sign of severe mental health crises.

Build emotional safety as a new team culture

Team meetings are a good place to start building such a culture. You can help your employees and/or colleagues by acknowledging the situation by saying something like: "I know this is hard for everyone, and I want us to help each other through this." By asking open questions in group meetings like "how are you feeling at the moment?" you can make sharing of emotions the new norm.

You should listen actively, and feel free to take your time and really consider your next question or comment. It's important your employees and/or colleague feels that you have plenty of time.

COVID-19: Mental health and wellbeing resources – Ministry of Health (external link)