Providing employees with the right mental health resources can help them stay engaged and proactive. (Photo: Bulat Silvia, Getty Images/iStockphoto)
Johnny C. Taylor Jr., a human resources expert, is tackling your questions as part of a series for USA TODAY. Taylor is president and CEO of the Society for Human Resource Management, the world’s largest HR professional society.
The questions are submitted by readers, and Taylor’s answers below have been edited for length and clarity.
Have a question? Do you have an HR or work-related question you’d like me to answer? Submit it here.
Question: As a small business owner, what are some ways I can provide more resources and tools to my employees as it relates to mental health? I see how the pandemic has affected my team. – Anonymous
Johnny C. Taylor Jr.: There’s no doubt about it – the COVID-19 pandemic has tremendously impacted our mental health and well-being. Feelings of stress, loneliness and anxiety can often make their way into our workplaces. And for some, returning to the office has brought up mixed emotions.
As a small business owner, it’s important to take stock of your own feelings and attitudes, and importantly, encourage your employees to do the same. After all, nearly half of employed Americans report feeling burned out from their work, and notably, nearly one-third of employees who telework report often feeling tired or having little energy.
When workers feel supported and healthy, engagement, productivity, and collaboration also increase, improving a company’s bottom line. That said, I have a few suggestions for prioritizing mental health at your organization.
• First, communicate clearly and often. If you’re not already doing them, I recommend having weekly check-ins. This not only gives you a chance to discuss pressing business matters with your team, but you’ll be able to gauge how everyone is feeling and actively listen for concerning behaviors– such as not sleeping or eating well, or mention of burnout.
• Share information about your company’s employee assistance program, which may provide resources and psychological services such as counseling. If your organization doesn’t have an employee assistance program, you could compile resources and information from your local health department to share with employees. Be clear: it’s OK to seek help, and you want to make sure your employees get the assistance they need.
• I also suggest connecting with your company’s health care provider to see what other resources may be available or recently added. Some providers who may not have offered mental health services previously may be doing so now amid the unique challenges and demands of the pandemic.
The past year has been fraught with change and uncertainty. One thing HR has learned, however, is the importance of encouraging positive mental health practices. Providing employees with the right tools and resources can help them stay engaged and proactive – and it also gives them a sense of stability and being cared for.
The coronavirus is causing major stresses in households. Here's a look at how the country is doing and tips on how to cope with mental health issues.
Job hunting: Should I tell my boss I’m looking for a new job? Ask HR
Telecommuting: How can hard work be recognized while working remotely? Ask HR
Q: A client of mine has two hourly employees working remotely. An employee can’t work at times due to internet, electrical and phone issues. What can an employer do legally? Does the employee need to take their paid time off or is there a law the company must pay them when they are unable to work? – Sherry
Taylor: Thanks for writing. It can be challenging to monitor remote workers, especially when an employee’s equipment and technology aren’t working properly.
First, I’d like to clarify the difference between exempt and nonexempt employees. Under the Federal Labor Standards Act, nonexempt employees are only paid for actual hours worked, so a company isn’t obligated to pay them if no work is performed.
If a nonexempt employee is unable to work his or her typical schedule, whether it’s due to disruptions or any other schedule conflict, your client could require these employees to use their paid time off, even if they haven’t requested vacation time.
If your client’s company is unionized, they may want to check if there is a contract bargaining agreement – sometimes these have specific requirements for paid time off usage or restrictions.
The key issue here is ensuring employees have all the necessary equipment and technology to perform their jobs consistently and efficiently. Does your client have a policy outlining expectations and any reimbursements? I ask because some employers provide the necessary equipment, while others require employees to have everything in place at their own expense.
An alternative option to consider is to encourage them to go to a safe, temporary site if their internet, phone, or electricity is out – such as the office, a library, a community workspace, or a coffee shop with a secure internet connection.
Finally, and this may come as a surprise to you, some states require employers to reimburse employees for business-related expenses, which could mean your client may be on the hook for transportation and other costs incurred by the employee if they have to spend money working from a temporary worksite.
I hope this helps, and best of luck to your client!
Source: Read Full Article