Behavioral Science Experts Dan Ariely and Kelly Peters Explain How Business Leaders Can Support Employees’ Mental Health During the COVID-19 Pandemic
Over the course of the last year, the nature of work has radically shifted for workforces across the U.S., with many putting their lives at risk on the frontlines and others shifting to working from home. According to our recent survey, 82% of Americans agree that companies should provide the flexibility to work from home, something critically important to public health and safety during this time. Moreover, working from home, done right, has the potential to improve productivity and lower costs for employers.
But working from home comes with its challenges, particularly when it comes to workers’ psychological well-being. Earlier this week, we were joined by Dan Ariely and Kelly Peters of BEworks – which works with companies to apply behavioral science to real-world challenges – to discuss how workers have been impacted by the shift to work-from home, and what business leaders should do to help protect their employees’ mental health and well-being.
Watch the full talk here, explore our key takeaways below, and read their latest research report on what predicts employee work-from-home success here:
Leaders are obligated to keep their employees from burning out.
Workers are facing new challenges when working from home, from prolonged isolation and Zoom fatigue to a lack of boundaries between work and home life. For workers with children, the challenges are even more complex, requiring them to juggle new roles as educators during the school day. Employers need to understand that the stress of these challenges accumulates for employees, potentially leading to burnout or decreased output. Make sure to encourage your employees to turn off at the end of the day and that you understand the specific challenges your individual employees face.
Trust and connection are critical to helping employees stay engaged.
Working from home has significantly diminished the casual connections we all experience in the workplace, like a chat in the kitchen or taking a coffee break with a colleague. More complicated, perhaps, is the potential for diminishing autonomy and trust as managers overcompensate for the lack of an office. Employers should continue to facilitate time for their workers to enjoy social connection with colleagues and an appropriate level of freedom to do their job. These gestures build trust and help employees remain engaged and productive.
Check in with your employees on a personal level.
While working from home, employees may have fewer opportunities to share personal struggles or frustrations with colleagues or supervisors, leading to frustration on the part of workers and a lack of insight on the part of business leaders. Create an open dialogue with your employees, and give them regular opportunities to share what they find challenging or what they feel isn’t working as they work from home. Additionally, share with them what’s happening at a higher level – what the operational challenges are, what the organization is trying, what might shift down the line. This open dialogue is critical, again, to creating trust and making sure employees feel heard.
It’s important to note that many of these same stressors – as well as others that are arguably more devastating, like personal health and financial security – are felt by employees on the frontlines. All business leaders, whether they are leading a team that’s primarily working from home or on site, have an opportunity to reimagine how they support their workers, during COVID-19 and beyond.
BEworks provides additional resources to help organizations ask the right questions and initiate dialogues with employees. Take a look at the broader takeaways from this conversation here, and reach out to the team for more information.