As people cope with health worries, financial concerns, and disruptions to daily life, it’s no surprise that 96% of employees say the COVID-19 pandemic has affected their stress levels. That stress, in turn, impacts productivity and well-being, as well as the ability of people and organizations to achieve success.

The statistic comes from “Workforce Attitudes toward Mental Health,” a new study from Ginger, an on-demand mental health company that offers virtual coaching, therapy, and psychiatry. One more revealing data point: the study’s respondents characterized the coronavirus pandemic as roughly three times more stressful than both the 2008 financial crisis and the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

So what can organizations do to support employees working through this strain and distress? Ginger’s Chief Clinical Officer Dana Udall and Glint People Scientist Carolyn Kalafut discussed this topic in a recent webinar, Reimagine Well-Being. Read on for a recap, plus nine ideas to promote well-being at work.

Well-being, mental health, and employee experience

Both Dana and Carolyn recommended that leaders recognize their potential to serve as role models and reduce the traditional stigma associated with mental-health challenges. That might mean speaking openly about personal vulnerabilities and struggles. Or it could be showing respect for work-life balance, even in small ways like taking a day off and setting an out-of-office message that says, “I’m taking time off to recharge.”

Dana pointed out that many organizations are prioritizing their commitment to employee well-being, seeing it as the right path to help everyone be more successful. “Organizations are making it a core part of their strategy,” she said. “Mental health used to be in the shadows, and it’s moving much more to the center.”

Carolyn echoed the idea that conversations about well-being and mental health are relevant to every employee’s experience, especially at a time when many feel the need to be “always on” while sheltering during the pandemic. People think, “My boss knows I’m not going out, so I feel this added pressure to be at my desk and respond immediately,” she said.

That unhealthy approach overlooks the critical importance of habits that stave off bigger problems later on. Getting a good night’s sleep, exercising, eating well, unplugging, and finding ways to handle or push back on societal stressors like sexism and racism are skills worth building. 

“If we can do that work early on, it can really prevent some of the outcomes and some of the necessary treatment down the road,” Dana said. “If employers are able to provide opportunities for early-level intervention, folks are going to stay more engaged, more productive, and be happier at work overall.”

Ginger’s research runs parallel to Glint’s latest Crisis Insights Report, which found 80% of employees expressing interest in “more employer-sponsored mental health and well-being support.” The Glint data also underscored the need for work-life balance and advancements in technology to facilitate workplace connections with leaders, teammates, and friends. 

The following tips, excerpted from Glint’s People Success Toolkit: Well-Being, can also help leaders, managers, and organizations strengthen support for employees:

How leaders and organizations can promote well-being

1. Connect with employees and get their feedback on how they are doing.

2. Empower managers to support the individual needs of their team.

3. Communicate often and in a transparent, hopeful way.

4. Provide information and resources in a consolidated, easy-to-access platform.

5. Consider how strategic priorities have changed, and ensure those changes are shared.

How managers can strengthen their teams

6. Be proactive and intentional about connecting with employees frequently. Ask employees how they are doing, and listen with support and empathy.

7. Help employees re-prioritize and find available resources.

8. Serve as a role model to others and prioritize your own well-being. Employees will follow if you create a culture in which well-being is top of mind and resilience can thrive.

How everyone can be easier on themselves

9. Take stock of where you need support. Is it personal time to disconnect and support your family, or do you need more help prioritizing your work, given shifting organizational priorities?

For more tips and toolkits, visit Respond. Recover. Reimagine. to find resources for building the new world of work.