Managing Staff Mental Health During COVID-19

Jeanine Marquis, Optimization Consultant Practice Services

Whether you are going into the office or working from home, the COVID-19 pandemic certainly impacted the way each of us handles work. Changes at work compounded with uncertainty and safety concerns have led to increased anxiety and stress for all, and during the pandemic it is crucial to be able to recognize what stress looks like – and address it early before it progresses. Without many of our regular outlets and coping mechanisms, it is more important than ever to practice awareness and self-care.

Healthcare professionals are even more uniquely stressed than other people – the front-line exposure to the crisis; the stress of trying to provide care to patients while not infecting others in a clinical environment; the bitter irony of perhaps losing your job as an ambulatory practice worker during a pandemic because people aren’t going to the doctor’s office; and myriad other factors. You want to keep yourself safe, your staff safe, and keep everyone from experiencing burnout. The mental health effects of the COVID-19 pandemic are just as important to address as are the physical health effects, and we all need to take steps to build our resilience, manage job stress, and know where to go if you need help.

While there are many articles addressing mental health during this time – and serious concerns should always go straight to emergency resources. Here are some simple ways to reduce workplace stress and promote good mental health for your staff:

  • Practice open communication. Open communication of concerns and changes within your team can help lead to trust and support of changes to be implemented. When team members feel out of the loop or surprised by change, it can cause pushback or resentment. A “Morning Huddle” every day with your staff is becoming a key Best Practice for keeping everyone comfortably on the same page.
  • Frequently offer in-office relaxation activities such as stretching, yoga or meditation sessions while practicing social distancing and other safety precautions during a lunch hour or before/after work. This has potential to also encourage team building and strengthening.
  • Encourage an upbeat and positive atmosphere with things like “feel good” music choices or providing breakfast for the staff occasionally. Most can’t resist upbeat music or a surprise treat like donuts and coffee.
  • Provide resources in the community such as crisis hotlines, mental health outreach programs or other opportunities for workers to seek support they may need.
  • Ensure workplace safety by providing proper PPE gear and equipment needed for the job. When employees lack feelings of safety, it can cause anxiety and distrust.
  • As a leader, promote and demonstrate work-life balance. A fresh and balanced mind is good for the well-being of the person and their contribution to the workplace.

Mental health has always been vital to the overall well-being of an individual. The simple strategies listed above can help promote enhanced mental health in your practice. Also take into consideration the common everyday strategies such as being mindful of your body and the needs of self-care, reducing stress triggers to take care of your mind, building support by connecting with others, and reaching out for help when needed to successfully manage one’s overall mental health.

The added stressors of the pandemic have added another layer to the typical stress that can strain mental health. As the pandemic crisis slowly fades and the stressors related to it decrease, the other common everyday stressors will continue to preside over life. Therefore, continue to put into practice the workplace and self-care strategies that will increase your ability to cope with life’s everyday challenges and maintain a strong, positive mental health status.

Medical Advantage has been working hand-in-hand with practices for over twenty years to help improve quality of care, staff performance, workplace culture, and many other technical and financial aspects of growing a healthy practice. Today, we’re helping clinicians and staff get through COVID-19 – if your practice is in need of consulting assistance, please reach out below.

This article was written in collaboration with Nancy Nelson, RRT, BA, M. Ed, Senior Consultant, Medical Advantage, and Olivia Williams, Consultant, Medical Advantage.