People are doing their best to cope with the stressors of the last 18 months. COVID-19, job losses, economic pressures, home learning, racial tension, political tension and financial worries have affected everyone. No one is immune.

That may be why people are eager to get back to “normal.” Even if the coronavirus was eradicated tomorrow, normal would still be a long way off, and likely different from before.

The mental and emotional wounds that were suffered since the start of 2020 will take time to heal. Unfortunately, too many people don’t know where to turn. Psychologists, therapists and other mental health professionals are booked to capacity. Additionally, there is still some shame around seeking help for one’s mental well-being.

Employers have a unique opportunity to step in and fill that gap with programs that demonstrate concern for their employees, improve overall performance, and make them an employer of choice.

It Starts with Coaching

Coaching has long been reserved for executives or top salespeople. Front-line workers or mid-level managers could only get coaching in large, impersonal group settings. There were no opportunities for one-on-one coaching like there is today.

Everyone has an opportunity for coaching in the digitized workplace now. This approach is most often used by organizations that have a growth mindset. Companies that engage in one-on-one coaching also demonstrate the value they have for their employees. They show their willingness to invest in their betterment.

This is crucial for employees who are desperate for mental and emotional support in the current climate. Workplace burnout is real, and it’s not being addressed adequately by most organizations.

From Counseling to Coaching

There are distinct differences between coaching and counseling. Counseling focuses on healing and solving past issues — most often moving from a dysfunctional place to a functional one. Coaching involves a learner developing their own solutions, typically with a future focus, tailored to their context with highly personalized support from a coach. In each instance, a one-on-one relationship is established, and it’s based on trust. That is an important first step in any successful coaching situation.

The principles of coaching that create the conditions for success, including when the focus is on employee well-being, include:

  • The coach establishes an agreement with the learner that clarifies each person’s roles, relationship, ethics and process.
  • A safe space to speak freely and openly is established.
  • Sessions are focused completely on the learner and their needs.
  • The coach empowers their learners by creating awareness through self-analysis, facilitating planning and goal setting.

The coach serves as an accountability partner, guiding toward the potential to maximize their lives.

Support is Critical for Battling Burnout

More than 40% of the world’s workers felt worried in 2020, according to Gallup’s State of the Global Workplace report, up from 35% in 2019. In 2020, 43% of employees felt stress, up from 38% the previous year. Workers in the United States and Canada felt the highest level of stress at 57%. Worry and stress mixed with anger and sadness create the perfect breeding ground for burnout.

The figures uncovered by Gallup demonstrate how important it is for businesses to provide support for mental well-being for their employees. Mental illness is a $50 billion drain on human capital, according to the National Institutes of Health. Globally, the cost is in the trillions.

Despite this overwhelming need for mental well-being initiatives, there is still a stigma associated with asking for help. Because of that stigma, employers are hesitant to provide programs for fear they will go unused. However, leveraging coaching to focus on supporting well-being can shift this stigma. Compared with an approach that focuses on deficit-alleviation (counseling), a strengths focus can be more normalizing and engaging. Applying strengths helps employees to reframe and reappraise challenges, and potentially provides us with a steady dose of well-being to build positive coping mechanisms. A digital coaching platform provides flexibility that allows for the implementation of coaching sessions, which is beneficial for well-being.

Well-being Improves with Coaching, Not Just Counseling

It is more important than ever to have the necessary skills to cope successfully with an atmosphere of stress. Organizations need to make solutions for their employees a priority and then reassure them of the confidentiality of those programs.

Everyone from the C-suite to the front lines would benefit from access to programs focused on their well-being. No one benefits from managers or executives trying to “tough it out.” They would be better served by setting an example and availing themselves of one-on-one coaching sessions.

Coaching certainly is not a substitute for counseling when it comes to certain issues. However, with the right focus, the benefits that come from individual coaching are strengthened when enhanced with well-being sessions from the same trusted coaches they have come to rely upon.