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Managing Mental Health and Organizational Change

May is Mental Health Awareness Month. As more organizations start digital transformation plans, people are trying to regain their footing in the workplace and personally.

The past few years have been filled with rapid change. According to research and advisory company Gartner, the average business has undertaken five major organizational changes in the past several years. A further 75 percent of those companies expected to pursue additional change initiatives in the coming three years. 

Change that is too much or happens quickly can affect productivity and cause burnout. IT workers in particular are seeing a rise in stress levels, with 54 percent of workers describing themselves as exhausted. It’s important to look for signs of change fatigue and address it appropriately before high performing employees struggle or end up leaving.

Organizations can vastly improve the likelihood of change success through proactive change management. Here are things you can do to set your team up for successful change while maintaining a healthy mental headspace.

Set dedicated time to check in.

Whether your team is still remote or back in the office, schedule set time, monthly, weekly, and daily, as makes sense, both with your team, and individual team members, to catch up. Even if there aren’t important project updates, do your best to keep the time on the schedule. Build in time to chat about how things are going, at work and personally.

For a more formal pulse check, consider an anonymous survey to ask your team specific questions to understand if there are specific areas you need to address that team members may not be comfortable to share directly.

Offer positive reinforcement for good work and milestones met.

The goal is to keep team members motivated, which may be different for different people. When mapping out your project, build celebrations into the mix. Happy hours, safely in person or virtual, can offer the team time to unwind and get to know coworkers outside of a work setting. On team meetings or by email, call out a job well done. Even a small bit of recognition can be the push someone needs to keep trying their best.

Offering incentives for hitting certain milestones can also lift team spirits. Incentives can come in a number of different forms including a physical gift, gift card, or if your team is back in person but able to work remote, offering additional work-from-home days. Your organization can bring in a food truck, offer massages, or other specialty perk to show recognition for hard work.

Make sure your employees know what resources are available to them.

While this is not specific to organizational change, it is good to remind team members periodically of any assistance or benefits programs your organization offers related to mental health. If someone is in a bad place mentally, or feeling busy and overwhelmed, it can be hard to even do the smallest research for help. A quick reminder of any support resources available can make a big impact. Even something as simple as a gym stipend can bring positive impact to someone’s routine.

Practicing good mental health in the workplace comes down to mindfulness. Change is inevitable, and necessary. Just as strategies to manage change are necessary, the success or your project comes down to the people involved. For employees that are managing mental health issues, careful planning and preparation paired with effective change communication can be the difference between an extremely difficult transition and one that involves a manageable level of adjustment.