The current economic downturn and recent mass shootings, compounded by the multi-year global COVID-19 pandemic, have left people feeling more stressed, anxious and afraid, leading to higher cases of employee burnout and fatigue.

Since learning and development (L&D) leaders play such a critical role in supporting employee mental health, they need to know what steps to take in creating a workplace culture that supports employee mental health and well-being. So what is it that L&D leaders can do to support their employees’ mental health during a crisis? Keep reading to find out.

3 Ways To Support Employee Mental Health During a Crisis

Here are three ways to effectively support your employees’ mental health during uncertain times.

1. Reflect on your onboarding process.

To begin, consider your employees’ first point of contact with you — onboarding. Think about your employees’ experience through a mental health lens. Consider how someone who is living with a mental health challenge may feel as they onboard at your company and acclimate to the organization.

Below are a few questions to assess your organization’s onboarding processes from a mental health perspective.

  • How do employees learn about your organization’s mental health benefits?
  • How do you proactively include people living with mental health conditions in your onboarding program?
  • Are there any burnout prevention programs for new employees in place in your organization?

These are just a few questions to begin evaluating your organization’s onboarding process. You may also find it valuable to conduct interviews with your top talent to learn about their past onboarding experiences.

2. Review your mental health training strategy.

Next, review your broader mental health training strategy. What does your organization do to support employee mental health after new hire orientation and the first 90 days? How does your training stack up when compared to similar companies in your industry? What additional training might you consider offering to improve employee mental health and well-being?

L&D plays an important and multifaceted role in supporting employee mental health, particularly during stressful times. L&D is not only setting the tone for new employees but also providing employees and managers with ongoing professional development. When used strategically, this ongoing training can be used to improve employee mental health.

Employees’ mental health needs are constantly evolving, so make a practice of reviewing and updating your organization’s mental health training strategy at least annually.

3. Improve employee utilization of mental health benefits.

Finally, reflect on the utilization rates of your organization’s mental health benefits. While workers often learn about their benefits upon joining the organization, regular reminders from L&D can help improve utilization. Some companies also harness the power of gamification and/or financial incentives to encourage employees to regularly use their health benefits. Consider if this may work for your organization.

Also, examine how openly and honestly leaders speak about their own mental health in the workplace. Storytelling can be an effective training strategy to educate and empower your employees to open up and seek help when they need to. However, be careful not to encourage workers to self-disclose unless your organization has created a psychologically safe environment in which to do so.

Avoid These Mistakes When Supporting Employee Mental Health

What mistakes should you avoid when reviewing your mental health strategy, programs and training?

First, you want to ensure that you involve your staff, particularly those living with mental health conditions, in your organization’s mental health training strategy. Many companies make the mistake of forgetting to make space at the table for front-line workers. Employee surveys can be an effective way to gain insights from those who will be impacted by your training programs and other L&D decisions. Also, if you do not already have one, it may be time to establish a mental health employee resource group (ERG).

Next, avoid leaving employees in the dark right now, especially if your industry has been negatively impacted by the pandemic. Workers need more frequent communication during stressful and uncertain times. You can ease your employees’ anxiety by providing them with regular L&D updates, even if those updates are simply communicating that you have no new information.

Also, recognize that every organization and every employee is unique. Applying a one-size-fits-all approach to L&D won’t work during these difficult times. You will be most successful if you develop a mental health training strategy that considers your company’s distinct culture, business needs and goals.

Lastly, don’t expect overnight change. Improving employee mental health takes time. Be patient with the process. You’ve got this!