Frequently Asked Questions

Mental Health in the Workplace FAQ

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A collection of frequently asked questions related to workplace mental health to help businesses keep employees healthy and productive amid COVID-19. Browse questions below or submit your own.

Mental Health in the Workplace FAQ

Why should employers focus on preventative health measures to manage employee well-being?

  • The fall and winter months may be the most difficult for employees, especially as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to bring challenges across all industries.
  • Employees are the heartbeat of an organization and if they are consumed by fear, stress, and anxiety, productivity and engagement will suffer.
  • Use preventative health measures as a tool to keep the workforce healthy and engaged.

What are some preventative health measures employers should consider?

  • Encourage employees to get a flu shot this fall. Consider organizing an on-site flu clinic if your organization has transitioned back into the workplace.
  • Acknowledge the challenge of seasonal depression as we head into colder months. Encourage employees to stay physically active, eat nutritious foods, and stay digitally connected with friends and family.
  • Promote the benefits of developing resilience, mindfulness, and stress-management techniques.
  • Download Wellness Works’ complimentary employer guide for preventative health tips and actionable steps to keep Southeast Michigan’s workforce healthy and productive amid COVID-19.

How has the mental health crisis intensified since COVID-19?

Depression has long been recognized as a public health crisis in the U.S. Unfortunately, since the COVID-19 pandemic began, rates of depression and anxiety have more than tripled due to increased isolation, stress, and worry.

For many, the  pandemic has also worsened other existing mental health conditions. Now more than ever, it’s imperative to support employee mental health and approach this issue proactively.

Michelle Riba, MD, MS; Associate Director, University of Michigan Depression Center


How can I tell if a coworker is experiencing burnout or behavioral health symptoms, such as chronic stress, anxiety, or depression? How can I talk to them about my concern?

At this time, employees may be feeling especially overwhelmed, depressed, or anxious. Some possible signs that a coworker is struggling include: changes in appearance, social withdrawal, being frequently late to work or often missing work, and declining work performance. Make it a point to check in with all employees and colleagues about how they’re managing, but especially those that you have specific concerns about.

If you’re worried about someone, it’s okay if you don’t know exactly what to say. Approach them privately and ask how they’re doing or what’s on their mind. Ask how you might help, or tell the person you’re available to talk when they’re ready. Just hearing them out and being supportive can make a real difference.

Danielle Taubman, MPH; Program Evaluation Specialist, University of Michigan Depression Center


How can employees avoid feelings of isolation while working remotely?

It is so important to let others know you care about them during this time.  I would encourage people to reach out to their team members to stay connected and maybe do a visual call instead of an email when possible.  On a personal level, I encourage all employees to stay connected to their friends and family members.  Call, text or even better use a platform to see them visually like Facetime, Teams or Zoom.  Call a friend and catch up while you walk after dinner or virtually have dinner with friends over Zoom.

If you are feeling lonely and isolated – reach out to someone and discuss your options and what resources are available.  If you need to hug someone – there is value in hugging a pet or believe it or not – hugging a beautiful tree in your yard.

Cindy Bjorkquist, Director of Well-Being at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan


What are the benefits of meditation and how can it be used as a tool to combat stress and anxiety related to COVID-19?

  • People have used mindfulness meditation to reduce stress and anxiety for centuries. Pre-Covid-19, a 2017 survey by Gallup reported 79% of Americans feel stressed sometimes or frequently throughout the day.
  • In April 2020 following Covid-19, according to the American Institute of Stress, 33% feel extreme stress, 77% of people experience stress that affects their physical health and 73% of people have stress that impacts their mental health. So, a lot of people are trying to help themselves become resilient to stress and one of the ways is to practice mindfulness through meditation which is why over 30 million Americans practice some sort of meditation regularly.
  • Mindfulness Meditation is used to calm your mind – to reset and bring your thoughts back to the present in times of stress. It’s a skill you can develop to bring your thoughts back to focus on the present moment. You can practice mindfulness meditation in a variety of ways. There is the traditional breathing meditation where people are sitting or lying down and focusing on their breathing, movement meditation such as running, yoga, or walking a labyrinth, and body scan meditation which involves becoming aware of your body in a mindful way by tensing muscles and relaxing from your toes to your head.
  • I would urge people to find the type that they feel comfortable with and incorporate it daily. It could be as simple as taking 3 minutes to just focus on your breath and relax your mind. I prefer to practice while being in nature among trees.

Cindy Bjorkquist, Director of Well-Being at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan


What can I do to support frontline workers in my community?

There are so many people who are on the frontlines providing support to our communities during the COVID-19 outbreak. We can support our frontline workers by saying thank you for their sacrifice as they help to keep our communities safe. There are so many ways to say thank you. Here are just a few:

  • Go out of your way to say thank you.
  • Wear a face mask when in public.
  • Stay at home and celebrate the holidays responsibly.
  • Donate a meal or a free cup of coffee.
  • Use hand sanitizer regularly.
  • Donate blood.
  • Make a sign for your window or front yard.
  • Share a positive message on social media.

Lisa MacLean, director of physician wellness, Henry Ford Health System


What are signs an employee may be struggling with a mental health condition?

This will depend on the individual and the condition, but common signs include:

  • Changes in appearance and self-care.
  • Difficulty working with others.
  • Quick to anger.
  • Withdrawing socially.
  • Frequently late or missing work.
  • Poor work performance.
  • Being more negative.

Danielle Taubman, program evaluation specialist, University of Michigan Depression Center


How can I cope with holiday stress and isolation this winter?

Even without a pandemic, the holidays can be a difficult time for many employees. Coping strategies include:

  • Reaching out if you feel lonely.
  • Setting realistic expectations for the holidays.
  • Acknowledging that this is a stressful time.
  • Taking time away for yourself to do an activity you enjoy.
  • Maintaining self-care and healthy habits.

Danielle Taubman, program evaluation specialist, University of Michigan Depression Center


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