11 tips for maintaining the mental health status of employees

Leading teams/employees under exposure to continuous extreme stressors and/or crisis situations. Maintaining the mental health status of employees

#1 Make sure everyone has a clear role and tasks
A well-defined task and clear instructions on how to carry it out, provide employees with a sense of control during difficult times. A sense control and influence give a peace of mind. Offer each team member a role that contributes to the whole picture. Make sure employees don’t have to worry about the company/organization. This will prevent a potential energy leak, as they will start to focus on the details , which results in unnecessary feelings of uncertainty.

#2 Promote task-oriented coping
It is not wise to stimulate emotional coping (coping= dealing with) in times of stress or crises. This type of coping method is useful when safety and serenity have been restored. Teach employees to keep their focus on the task at hand. This also implies not to observe, listen or pay attention the feelings that the difficult details arise. The focus should only be on one’s own task.

#3 Togetherness
Strengthen the perception of “we stand together” and name the group’s strengths. Togetherness forms a crucial shield against the outside pressures.

#4 Encourage role division and role behavior
It is an important protective measure to stay in the role of the moment. Thus, don’t follow the news while working or maintain regular contact with home. It also applies the other way around. While at home ,do not worry about the colleagues or patients/work issues. Stay in the role you have at that specific moment and don’t let the roles intermingle with each other.

#5 Plan recovery time in “oases”
A prolonged exposure to stressful situation is bearable by planning in a recovery time in the daily routine .Find “oases” at work and at home, which are positive spots for rest and relaxation. There is a tendency to skip breaks when the pressure is high, however, doing so increases the risk of burnout and making more mistakes. It is wise to take a break after every 1.5 hours of effort. Breaks should be spent in a positive place ,where stressors are minimally present. When this is impossible, allow employees to take 10 minute breaks to sit somewhere else and/or eat and drink something.

#6 Ensure the continuation of the capacity to relax
Make sure that the team and the employees retain the ability to relax. When the ability to relax decreases, it increases risks of developing health problems, such as poor sleep, worrying, becoming too emotional or emotional numbed and /or displaying robot-like behavior. You can stimulate the capacity to relax by monitoring that recovery time at work indeed takes place and by planning moments of informal conversations as breathers.

#7 Focus on what has been done well and the meaningfulness of actions taken
In a situation of high stress or crises, what you contribute seems small in comparison to the amount distress and suffering around you. As a manager and employee, focus on what you have contributed and its meaningfulness, no matter how small it may seem. Doing so can help prevent feelings of hopelessness and powerlessness from raising.

#8 Show appreciation
Levels of self-confidence decline in situations in which stressors are overwhelming and the level of the perceived influence is low. Therefore, it is important to express your appreciation of the work done by the employees during this time; no matter how small the contribution may be.

#9 Intervene and discipline in situations in which employees direct tensions at each other
Situations of high pressure and crises require a strong and disciplined leadership. Intervene and modify behaviors when employees blow off steam at each other. This behavior might escalate easily to harassment at the work place, thus managing the situation quickly is necessary. Provide the employees with constructive ways to relieve their tensions and frustrations, during more peaceful ,stable and safe moments .

#10 Distinguish between times that require “command-oriented” communication style and when a more amicable approach is necessary.
It is helpful for employees to know clearly, when “command style” is applied and when it is an occasion to ask questions and informally confer. Employees may feel unheard and misunderstood if this distinction is unclear to them.

#11 Leave “when it’s over” unspecified
There is uncertainty when it comes to knowing when the crisis or time of distress will be over. It’s better not to mention a specific date or draw a line. People tend to lose their nerves just before or just after the mentioned finish line. Leave it unspecified and say “someday it will be over, when that will be, we don’t know.”

Recommendations written by Dr. Heilwine Bakker (GZ psychologist NIP, Balance & Impulse)