Employee Relations, HR Management, HR Updates

Summertime 2022, and the Living is Not So Easy

Some words from Paula Agee, Director of Operations.

Do you ever have one of those weeks? Or months? We all do, and certainly I have as of late. My family went on a lovely vacation last week, only to have our youngest come down with Covid-19 before we left, then find out she might have been exposed to a certain hair loving creepy crawly at slumber party the week before, then got caught up in a pool of jellyfish when she was finally able to get to the beach. Our boat excursion ended in a thunderstorm. My husband lost his Ray-Bans fishing when smacked with an unexpected wave. We made it home, only to find that the pool had turned swamp green, and the dryer was broken. Then my phone and lifeline to all my lovely consultants and clients decided to call it quits. I understood.

These are all just trivial things in the big scheme of what is going on in our world, and our employees – and your employees – are feeling it. A recent Lyra Mental Health Report stated the following:

Employees’ mental health is at an all-time low, the survey data suggest. Nearly a third (31 percent) of workers surveyed said their mental health has declined over the past year—up from 24 percent at the end of 2020. While the majority of respondents (56 percent) said their mental health remained the same over the past year, that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re in good mental health. In fact, 84 percent of workers surveyed experienced at least one mental health challenge over the past year, from issues such as stress and burnout to diagnosable conditions including depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and PTSD. In addition to more employees reporting declining mental health, workers were also more likely to say they’d faced stress, anxiety, burnout, and depression over the past year. The biggest jump was among employees with anxiety, which affected 14 percent more employees than in 2020.

That’s a lot to consider. As Covid-19 lingers, inflation rises, the risk of recession seems inevitable, and anxiety increases, how do we as leaders and employers help our employees cope?

Many leaders might think that their first and foremost concern must be financials right now. While that must be a high priority, there is nothing more important that the morale and engagement of your employees. It’s the difference between a company getting by or a company getting it right.

In 2008, Gallup’s Chief Scientist of Workplace Management and Well Being (I think this needs to be my future HRA title) stated that “in good times, employee engagement is the different between being good and being great.” This is true. When things are good, some cool snacks in the break room, a few random gift cards, and those much teased (but quickly consumed) pizza parties go a long way. When times are bad, though, it takes a lot more than a trip to Costco to fix how employees are feeling.

I asked my colleague and Senior HR Consultant, Amy Olds, what she recommends employers do to elevate their engagement when times get tough. “During these uncertain times, clients frequently ask what to do about retention and engagement. The most important thing employers can do is ask for feedback from their employees. This could be in the form of a formal survey or one on one feedback. Another important area to focus on is mental health,” she continued. “Do your benefits allow your employees’ access to mental health support and resources? Does your company have an EAP? Then employers need to communicate and make their workplace a safe place to have conversations around mental health struggles.”

If we as leaders can focus on Communication, Empathy, and Transparency during these times, we will go a long way in making our employees feel secure amid all the uncertainty. While we as employers can’t change a pandemic or change the price at the gas pump and grocery store, we can create a workplace where employees know that they are heard, valued, and have support to do great work. If our employees know that they are valued as individuals and not assets or a means to an end, they know that we will treat them fairly and kindly and will make decisions based upon our organizational values regardless of what might happen in the outside world.

So, back to my story of vacation mishaps. How was the trip? It was wonderful. We were able to laugh at all the mishaps, be grateful things were not any worse, and take things in stride. Sure, it took a few conversations with a teen and pre-teen to get our priorities straight. It took a lot of understanding when things got tough for a brief moment, and it took honesty about what is most important to our family values. So, the small stuff stayed the small stuff, and the big stuff stayed the big stuff.

If you are looking for ways to make sure your organization stays engaged and encouraged during these times, please let us know how we can help. We would love to help you with employee recognition, engagement, and feedback surveys, or an EAP plan. You cannot do great things without great people – let us help you help them.


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