Maintaining Behavioral Health While Working From Home

Posted by: 
Dan Jolivet
Photo of a woman with her laptop working at home

With so many employees now working from home, behavioral health issues can surface behind the scenes and affect performance. Here’s a quick review of the challenges employees are struggling with during the coronavirus pandemic — and a to-do list that shows what employers need to be doing now.

Work-From-Home Worries for Employees

For some employees, working from home still feels like a perk. But for many, it creates new demands and behavioral health challenges. Combined with global economic uncertainty, the loss of workplace routines can magnify feelings of isolation and make underlying issues worse.

Employees may be experiencing heightened anxiety, depression or substance abuse issues. Others are dealing with work/life balance, financial worries and health concerns.

Rising Work-From-Home Worries

Employees may be struggling with:

  • Work/life balance
    • Parents working from home with children
    • Working more hours to cover for sick coworkers
  • Social isolation
    • People who live alone
    • Single parents
  • Mental health issues
    • People with previous episodes of depression may relapse and others may experience their first episode
    • Anxiety may also occur for the first time or recur
  • Substance abuse issues
    • Increased use of alcohol or other substances
    • People in recovery may relapse
  • Financial worries
    • Reduced hours, lost jobs or partner/spouse job loss
    • Job security, retirement and the future
  • Health concerns
    • Getting or spreading COVID-19
    • Family members, especially elders

Employer Work-From-Home To-Do List

1. Communicate about benefits and wellness resources.

Struggling employees need to know they’re not in this alone. Here are some tips to ramp up communications and remind employees about resources they may overlook:

  • Acknowledge that many people are struggling. Talking directly about anxiety, depression, suicidal thoughts, alcohol abuse and drug problems can break the silence and encourage people to face these issues directly.
  • Create a communication plan that spotlights benefits. Regularly communicate benefit highlights — via emails, newsletters, chat groups, etc.
  • Emphasize employee assistance programs. Managers and HR can encourage employees to get help from EAP counselors, services and online tools.
  • Enhance or create wellness programs. If that’s not an option, provide a list of resources that employees can access from home.
  • Announce new or enhanced benefits. For example, extra PTO for absences related to COVID-19, local perks or other changes that can help employees.

2. Increase manager training and provide tools.

Managers can make a big difference by offering support and watching for signs of increased stress at the team and individual level. Make sure managers at all levels have the training they need to:

  • Identify and address indications of behavioral health conditions.
  • Support the needs of their employees and foster connections.
  • Cope with their own challenges related to managing remotely.

3. Develop an anti-stigma culture and emphasize wellness.

Now is a great time to introduce or reinforce a company-wide anti-stigma initiative. With broad support from the CEO level down, employers can foster a culture that makes it okay to talk about behavioral health issues — and ask for help.

For more insights on this topic, check out a white paper co-published by The Standard and DMEC, Managing Optimal Work Performance Through Behavioral Health Conditions. You can also find relevant tips and strategies in our blog posts about Behavioral Health.