Need an expert? COVID-19: how employers can promote employee mental health during the crisis

Posted on Wednesday, April 1, 2020

A woman facing a computer and biting a pencil

Members of the media may directly contact the following expert:

Jennifer Dimoff (English only)

Assistant Professor, Telfer School of Management

Dimoff@telfer.uottawa.ca

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Professor Dimoff’s research focuses on the role managers play to foster mental health in the workplace. She is also part of a research team that has received a Novel Coronavirus Rapid Research Funding Opportunity by the Canadian Institute of Health Research. The research team will examine how organizations respond to the COVID-19 outbreak and how their practices, policies and communications encourage or discourage health-promoting behaviours among their employees. The researchers suggest that employers also have a public health role to play.

Jennifer Dimoff agreed to answer a few questions:

Physical distancing can take a toll on employee mental health. How can employers and managers help employees navigate these challenges?

“Extraordinary circumstances call for extraordinary responses, but they also call for human responses. Employers and managers can strive to treat their employees as people first. Managers can encourage safe, virtual forms of socialization among employees in order to help maintain morale and mental health. Social isolation can be very problematic for mental health, so reminding employees to connect with family and friends virtually or by hosting virtual meetings that involve social activities (above and beyond "business as usual") can help bring humour and positivity to a time that can feel very daunting and uncertain. Connectedness is so very critical right now. Fostering connectedness will help protect employee mental health and wellbeing.”

How can organizations promote mental health in their workforce right now?

“Employers can recognize that “business as usual” may not be possible in all situations – that some concessions may need to be made in the short-term to ensure the long-term survival and success of the organization and its employees. 

They can make sure that front-line managers are well equipped to communicate with employees and offer flexibility. This flexibility may come in the form of reduced work hours, different work hours, or other accommodations.

Employers can actively promote psychological health by reminding employees to maintain physical health too – exercise, get outside (if possible), eat nutritious food, and do activities that are relaxing and restoring.”
 

Read the full interview here.
 

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