Employee Experience

Checking in on HR: How people teams can find a sense of calm

May is Mental Health Awareness Month and there has possibly never been a more relevant time to talk about supporting not only employees' mental health and well-being, but HR’s too.
Since the outbreak of the pandemic, stress and mental health issues are on the rise.

We recently carried out a global study of 2,700 employees and found that 67% of people report higher stress, 57% are feeling greater anxiety, and 53% say they feel more emotionally exhausted.

When your people are going through tough times at work, your hope is that they reach out to HR and people teams. But these teams need support too – not unlike the airline request of making sure you have your own oxygen mask on before helping others.

What are the ways HR and people teams can better support their own well-being in these stressful times?

First thing’s first: Check in with your team… and yourself

It’s crucial to regularly check in with your people. But don’t forget to look after yourself in the process. It’s easy to forget your own needs while you’re prioritizing others.

Signs of stress and anxiety include:

  • Being irritable or argumentative
  • Feeling tired or unwell
  • Struggling with tasks
  • Loss of humor

Take time off

We’re all at risk of burnout right now. With vacation plans flying out of the window and many communities still in strict lockdown measures (if we’re lucky), many are trying to tough it out until this passes.

However, we could just be making it worse. One of the best things you can do for yourself is take a step back and take a day (or more) off work.

Taking a day off when so much needs to get done seems like it will only add to the stress, but you owe it to your well-being.

Unsurprisingly stress has been linked to loss of confidence, indecision and forgetfulness.

Experiencing too much stress can make us doubt ourselves or question the decisions we make, which in turn can have a negative impact on our confidence at work. This is compounded by long working hours that HR and people teams are reporting.

Streaming behemoth Netflix is ahead of the curve when it comes to encouraging a healthy work-life balance.

Netflix says its staff are encouraged to “work smarter, not harder”. And as such, its people don’t have a 9-to-5 workday, or official time off either. “We don’t set a holiday and vacation schedule, so you can observe what’s important to you – including when your mind and body need a break.”

Break down the stigma

There’s a taboo of silence that surrounds mental health, particularly at work. And even more so if you’re part of the team that’s meant to be supporting others through their stress.

Create an open forum at work where people can feel that it's not only acceptable to talk about their distress, but first and foremost they won’t get judged or penalized for doing so.

Feeling like you can openly discuss what you’re going through and share your story can only make you feel stronger, but will also give people in your team – and the wider organization – the ‘permission’ to come forward and share their own struggles.

For example, Coca-Cola’s smoothie brand, Innocent, wants to encourage its people to better understand mental health and stress, as well as its impact.

The drinks brand runs two training courses aimed at promoting better understanding of mental wellbeing. One is for everyone to improve general awareness and one is tailored specifically for HR and managers, to make sure they fully understand the challenges of stress and mental health and can effectively support their teams.

Take some deep breaths

Simple, but so effective. And yet it’s the first thing we forget when we’re stressed out.

Step 1: Sit comfortably with your back straight. Put one hand on your chest and the other on your stomach.

Step 2: Breathe in through your nose. The hand on your stomach should rise. The hand on your chest should move very little.

Step 3: Exhale through your mouth, pushing out as much air as you can while contracting your abdominal muscles. The hand on your stomach should move in as you exhale, but your other hand should move very little.

Step 4: Continue to breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. Try to inhale enough so that your lower abdomen rises and falls. Count slowly as you exhale.

Tip: If you find it difficult breathing from your abdomen while sitting up, try lying down. Put a small book on your stomach, and breathe so that the book rises as you inhale and falls as you exhale.

Make the most of technology

One of the biggest problems with stress and mental health is how circular it can end up being. When we’re stressed and anxious we end up sleeping poorly, which can exacerbate feelings of stress and unease.

However, there are plenty of apps to help. Apps can be effective in making help, advice, and therapy more accessible. Especially when there aren’t enough hours in the day.

Retail giant Target is offering its employees access to free online resources where they can get help to support their mental, emotional, and physical health.

They’re being offered free subscriptions to apps such as Sleepio, an app that provides self-help tools to improve sleep. And Daylight, a website and app which helps people navigate stress and worry.

Take a look at ADAA (Anxiety and Depression Association of America) reviewed apps

Talking, talking, and more talking

It may sound trite, but there’s a reason why the saying ‘problem shared is a problem halved’. Sometimes stress becomes unmanageable because it builds up to the point where it feels overwhelming. But knowing who to talk to can be difficult, particularly if you feel like your manager or colleagues won’t understand, or if you feel your family are equally as worried or stressed by the situation. Don’t be afraid to talk to a professional if you feel like you need support.

Above all, prioritize your own mental health. If you’re not feeling well-rested, positive, and calm, it’ll be very hard for you to support others.

How are your people doing right now? Ask them. Use our free tool to find out what they’re worried about or feel may be barriers to getting back to work.

Get started with our free Back to Business Solution for employees