Why Employee Mental Health Matters And What You Can Do About It

In the uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic, most people are now balancing numerous responsibilities: working from home, keeping their kids entertained, stressing about staying healthy, checking in on elderly family members, trying to take care of themselves—the list goes on and on. These responsibilities can weigh on people and lead to mental health issues for busy employees.

Guru Gowrappan is CEO of Verizon Media, a company that has seen tremendous growth in the last few months as media consumption has skyrocketed. But even with his many responsibilities as CEO, Gowrappan believes his most important job is to take care of himself and encourage his employees to take care of themselves. It’s easy for employees to become overwhelmed and burnt out during normal times, and that risk is amplified during the uncertainty of a global pandemic and widespread social unrest. Gowrappan believes in doing everything to help employees with what they need to work from home and answer questions about benefits and other changes. He believes it is table stakes as CEO to prioritize employee mental health.

As employees work from home, their four walls become their universe. Those walls can quickly start to close in and become suffocating, which impacts an employee’s mindset both in work and their personal life. Gowrappan says it’s important for people to take care of themselves and find balance. He starts each day with exercise and meditation and has provided mediation resources and apps to all Verizon Media employees, as well as free access to 24/7 crisis and counseling support.

Working remotely blurs the lines between work and home, which means leaders and employees may find themselves in meetings for more than 12 hours a day with limited breaks. That constant mental energy can be draining, so Gowrappan and his team at Verizon Media encourage leaders to give more breaks. Even a short five-minute nap or 10-minute video game session can help employees reset and have the mental energy to continue with the day. Breaking up the rhythm of the day with as many small resets as possible builds good consistent energy.

Everyone is in the same boat with the pandemic, but it impacts everyone differently. Gowrappan believes this is a great opportunity to build empathy as we work through a shared challenge together. He encourages his employees to be as flexible and empathetic with each other as possible. If an employee feels overwhelmed or is struggling with their balance or mental health, they can be open and honest with their leaders or their team and have other people step in to make up the difference. Although the pandemic may be stressful, in many cases it is changing our view of other people and our relationships for the positive.

Along with providing employees with resources to reset and re-energize, leaders and organizations should try to find ways to lower employee stress. During the current pandemic, uncertainty can be a major stressor for employees. Gowrappan believes strongly in transparency and communication. He holds daily 30-minute live Q & A sessions with the entire company to keep them updated on how Verizon Media is pivoting and planning for the future. Gowrappan believes CEOs are today’s chief communication officers and have a responsibility to keep employees informed to lower their stress.

Employee mental health matters. Especially during challenging times, leaders and employees need to take care of themselves, and organizations must provide their employees the resources to prioritize their mental health and find balance.

This week’s podcast is sponsored by Zendesk.

Things are a little weird right now. The sudden change in the world—and the world of business—has created new challenges. A lot of companies are struggling to keep up with what matters most: their customers. Zendesk is here to help. They put together a six-month complimentary Remote Support Bundle. To learn more visit www.Zendesk.com/modern.

Blake Morgan is a customer experience futurist, keynote speaker and the author of the bestselling book The Customer Of The Future. Sign up for her weekly newsletter here.

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