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Supporting Employees' Mental Health During COVID-19

Supporting employees' health and well-being are top of mind this Mental Health Awareness Month—and will likely remain so in the months ahead. For businesses large and small, fostering a mental health-friendly workplace is a smart business practice—both in general and certainly now, during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Recognizing this time of uncertainty can add stress and anxiety that affect employees' mental health, several Office of Disability Employment Policy initiatives have responded with helpful resources on supporting workers. For example, the Job Accommodation Network (JAN) published a blog post titled, "Coronavirus (COVID-19), Stress, and Mental Health Conditions," which explores how the unknowns of the pandemic and stress induced by working and caregiving at home can be particularly difficult for those with mental health conditions. JAN consultant Sarah Small explains that it may be appropriate for employers to offer flexibility and provide temporary accommodations to help all employees who are experiencing increased stress. She notes that JAN offers specific guidance on COVID-19 and accommodations for people with mental health impairments.

Another resource employers can use is the Employer Assistance and Resource Network on Disability Inclusion's (EARN) Mental Health Toolkit. This online resource outlines steps businesses can take to foster a mental health-friendly workplace framed around the "4 A's":

  • Building awareness and a supportive culture;
  • White House Coronavirus Task Force
  • Providing accommodations to employees;
  • Offering employee assistance; and
  • Ensuring access to mental health treatment.

Whether you are a business owner, supervisor, or valued worker in a small organization, all of us should tune into our personal well-being and that of the people around us. In this spirit, JAN's Sarah Small urges everyone to check their own physical and mental health daily, and to stay connected with friends, family, and co-workers. "Knowing that we are all here to support one another can help with our overall cognitive function and productivity," she says. "Recognizing that we are all human by showing flexibility and patience can go a long way during this outbreak."

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