Time seems to be flying by faster than ever since the COVID-19 pandemic began back in March. It is almost hard to believe we are now in the holiday season. As happy as this time of year usually is, it may be more difficult for some members of your team to get into the holiday spirit and, more importantly, remain motivated. This increasing lack of motivation can stem from a few different reasons: the pandemic, mental health, and more.
Mental health has especially taken a toll as a result of more recent events. According to a recent study conducted by SHRM, 22-23% of study participants reported often feeling symptoms of depression as a result of the pandemic. On top of that, there is also a percentage of workers who regularly experienced seasonal affective disorder (SAD) prior to the pandemic. In fact, an article published by NBC News noted that about 5% of adults in America experience SAD while another 10-15% experience a more mild variation. SAD, sometimes referred to as the “winter blues,” typically occurs as the seasons change from fall to winter and continues on until the spring; however, it should be noted that it can affect anyone at any point during the year.
To quote Game of Thrones, “winter is coming,” and the pandemic is still keeping employees at home for the near, foreseeable future. While these factors remain relevant, human resources professionals should be mindful of the struggles their employees may face this time of year.
What you need to look out for
Times are tough. As a human resources professional, you probably have a desire to not only ensure your team is working efficiently, but that they are doing so happily. Whether your employees are experiencing SAD or are merely feeling symptoms of depression this holiday season, there are some signs you should look out for.
Generally, fatigue is described as an overwhelming feeling of exhaustion or lack of energy. It is sometimes mistaken for drowsiness, but the two are different. While sleepiness can be a side effect of fatigue, the most noticeable symptom is the complete and total lack of motivation. If you’ve ever had days where you feel like you’re dragging yourself through mud while fighting to stay awake, you may have been experiencing fatigue.
While it stems from a multitude of factors, it is certainly going to have a negative effect on your employees. As the majority of our workforce has been operating remotely, many have even begun to experience what is being known as “Zoom fatigue” or burnout caused by the excessive use of technology. You can learn more about fatigue and its various symptoms here.
At least at one point in time, we’ve all experienced feeling low self-esteem or low self-worth. But when these feelings are consistent and unrelenting, it can take a serious toll on our mental well-being. Some employees also can experience what’s referred to as imposter syndrome.
Imposter syndrome, while a bit different from low self-esteem, includes many of the same emotions and can also take a toll on one’s mental well-being and professional self. Anyone, regardless of professional experience or achievements, can experience imposter syndrome.
Lack of motivation
A lack of motivation, especially from employees who are known for being ambitious, will probably be recognized in an employee’s participation during meetings and their overall productivity levels. Sometimes this feeling is temporary. Maybe your employee had a bad night’s sleep or isn’t feeling well, so they don’t really have the drive they usually have. That’s completely normal. It’s when the lack of motivation is ongoing that you should be concerned.
This symptom may be a bit more difficult for you to notice, especially while working remotely since you won’t be able to interact with your employees in the same space. It can look like they’re mentally absent during meetings. Or maybe they keep finding reasons to diverge from the conversation at hand. If you believe this is a symptom of one of your employees, be sure to pay extra attention when you are able to telecommunicate and see what you notice about their behavior.
Lack of pleasure or joy
This symptom can be one of the most detrimental. It can affect every aspect of your life. Things that once brought you joy cease to do so and you lose interest in your normal hobbies. It can hurt one’s professional and personal relationships and well-being. If you notice this symptom in any of your employees, you’ll need to be prepared to help.
How you can help
Being able to identify the above symptoms is the first step. To really ensure your employees are happy and healthy, you may need to be prepared to offer a helping hand.
First and foremost, you need to show your employees compassion. Everyone is human. In some shape or form, every person has been affected by all the troubles we’ve experienced this year. Be understanding of each individual’s personal circumstances that can bleed into their professional lives. Here are some ways you can show your employees compassion:
- Suggest they take a mental health day if they need it
- Check-in on them as people, rather than as professionals
- Be a source of positivity in the workplace
- Encourage face-to-face telecommunications to humanize digital interactions
When we show compassion, even the slightest bit, it can make a huge difference in how others feel. Ultimately, we cannot know the unique circumstances every one of our employees’ experiences in their daily lives. There is no way to anticipate the outside stressors they have. Instead of trying to make assumptions or guess, simply act with kindness and compassion at all times.
Have resources available to help
Sometimes our employees know when they need assistance, and sometimes they don’t, or they don’t want to accept it. It isn’t necessarily your job to tell them when they need help and when they don’t. However, it is your job to have answers for them when they ask and ensure there are always available resources. Below are some resources you can offer your employees when they may need assistance.
Virtual support groups
These groups can be internal or external depending on the size of your organization, what resources your department has available, and even employee willingness to be involved in these groups. Either way, having a strong support system your employees can lean on or where they can discuss how they’re feeling without judgment can be a great resource.
Employee Assistance Programs (EAP)
For those who may be unfamiliar with EAPs, it is defined by the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) as a “voluntary, work-based program that offers free and confidential assessments, short-term counseling, referrals, and follow-up services to employees who have personal and/or work-related problems.” An EAP can offer both you and your employees the necessary support and resources.
Refer to experts
You are not a mental health professional; you are a human resources professional. While these lines can sometimes be blurred due to the nature of your work, you are not qualified to offer your employees the help they need in all situations. It is imperative that you understand this concept and that you establish those boundaries with your employees. Once those boundaries are established, you can refer them to professionals who are knowledgeable and equipped to properly handle their situation and offer them exactly what they need.
Mental health has long had a stigma within society and in the workforce. However, we are starting to pull away from that stigma, but we still have a ways to go. As winter approaches, we all need to be mindful of the mental well-being of others and of ourselves. For more on how you can offer your employees support during this time, check out this article published by SHRM. Also be sure to check in every Friday at noon for more articles, such as this one, from BrandResumes’ HR Corner. From our team to yours, we wish you a happy and healthy holiday season.