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    • August 24, 2020

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    Shrivalli was frustrated with her team member Pramit’s tardiness. To top it off, the data he submitted seemed prone to errors. He would apologize profusely, promising not to repeat it, though never offering reasons for it.

    Did he not take her seriously enough? Or was he not interested in working? Probably late-night partying? She couldn’t place a finger on the reason for his unusual behavior.

    At the end of her tether, Shrivalli felt it was time for an honest chat.

    One-on-one, she asked – ‘Is something troubling you, Pramit? Is there anything you want to talk about?’ She was half-expecting him to say nothing, like earlier.

    Quite unexpectedly, Pramit confessed. He had inadvertently caused a fire accident years ago at his home. While he escaped unscathed, his younger sister barely did. Despite the years rolling by, she still bore the physical scars of the disaster. It haunted Pramit in his sleep, and he landed up late every morning to work. The quality of his work suffered as a result.

    Shrivalli realized that a storm was brewing inside Pramit, and there was nothing to calm it down. She guided him towards utilizing the EAP services of the organization. She also made it clear that she was there for him if he needed any help.

    But what else should she say? Despite being a seasoned manager, she didn’t know. She reached out to HR for help.

    This situation is not uncommon.

    A similar script is playing out in different forms across many organizations.

    A global survey conducted by Qualtrics, states that ‘40.5% of executives and 44% of other staff self-reported a decline in mental health soon after the lockdowns started.’ 

    The nerve-wracking uncertainty unleashed by the pandemic has found many employees suffering with mild to severe mental health issues. And managers find themselves grappling to handle the unfolding situation.

    Here are the three things Managers must do if a team member suffers from a mental health issue

    Managers are the first/single point of contact for most employees, and hence managers have an added responsibility to watch out for the physical and emotional wellness of their team members.

    1. Stay empathetic, and alert

    In a session organized by KelpHR around Counseling, Dr. Quddusa Doongerwala MD, an experienced psychiatrist, shares that ‘managers are at the forefront of noticing changes in employees,’ especially during the pandemic. She states that it is their responsibility to stay alert and empathetic. They must attempt to understand what the employee is going through rather than instantly pressurize or brand them as low performers.

    If the reason is related to mental health and if they appear open to receiving help, managers can guide them to a counselor or the EAP program offered by the organization.

    2. Get equipped fast

    Managers must equip themselves to deal with sensitive situations. Committing a faux pas can set off an unintended and detrimental effect on an employee suffering from a mental health issue. Managers can:

    • Reach out to HR
    • Update HR regarding the situation on hand
    • Understand the company’s policy on the flexibility to be extended to the employee
    • Understand how to deal with the employee
    • Reach out to the EAP Counselor for inputs on dealing with such employees
    • Stay abreast of the common mental health issues
    • Assure confidentiality
    • Reiterate to the employee that the counselling session will be conducted in a confidential manner between the employee and the counsellor.

    Help the employee with

    • Structure and visibility to work assignments without overwhelming them
    • Adequate options to foster social relationships at the workplace
    • Positive reinforcements for work completed
    • A positive work environment
    • An assignment that matches their strength, if possible

    3. Regular Check-in with employees

    Mental health issues impact cognitive reasoning. Managers need to check-in regularly with the team member suffering from it, to assess if they find the work assigned to them achievable.

    They also need to exhibit their availability for someone wanting to talk to them.

    Admittedly, none of this is easy.

    The current pandemic induced ‘work from home’ has made it more difficult for managers to virtually understand if a team member suffers from a mental health issue. Minding the gap now calls for more effort and time from the manager. Yet, the good news is that managers are rising to the challenge. The survey by Qualtrics also states that the crisis has forced ‘managers to be the kind of managers people always wanted, which is really caring about their team’s welfare, and really listening.’ 

    While it has taken a pandemic to bring us to this moment of providing mental health with the attention it deserves, organizations find themselves in a situation with no precedence. They must chart a new course alongside experts in counseling.

    Kelphr helps organizations deal with this fast unraveling situation around mental health, through its Counseling and Employee Assistance Programs.

    Feel free to reach out to info@kelphr.com for more information around counseling for both individuals and organizations.

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