Dr. Anthony Harris On How Employers And Managers Can Support Employee’s Mental Health Issues Amid COVID-19

Dr. Anthony Harris On How Employers And Managers Can Support Employee’s Mental Health Issues Amid COVID-19

For Mental Health Awareness week, BLACK ENTERPRISE is interviewing numerous individuals within the wellness community to talk about the racial disparities that affect the Black community in the hopes of creating a safe place to talk about mental health. 

According to the World Economic Forum, 1 in 4 Americans has reported issues with depression and anxiety as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The rate of cases of adults dealing with mental health-related issues since COVID-19 climbed to 27.8% by mid-April 2020. Finances have been attributed to one of the leading causes of driving their depression as a result of job loss from the viral outbreak.

Dr. Anthony Harris is the chief innovation officer and associate medical director for WorkCare, a physician-directed occupational health company aimed at helping businesses practice healthy procedures and attitudes in the workplace, including mental health. In an interview with BLACK ENTERPRISE, Dr. Harris discusses how businesses and managers have had to learn to work with their employees who may be struggling internally due to the public health crisis.

BE: How can business owners be there for employees who are dealing with mental health issues?

Dr. Harris: I think businesses can be checking in on their employees to see how they are doing. Some people are more affected by what’s going on, some have family members that might be getting sick so just checking in to see if there is anything they can do to help. This even includes giving them access to resources that can help.
At WorkCare, we can do initial assessments for employees and then give them recommendations for what their next step should be based on the assessment— we call it Mental Health Well Checks & Triage. Mental health disorders, such as depression, are being regarded as the next impending pandemic resultant from social disconnectedness during current COVID-19 conditions. Taking a proactive approach to identifying those amongst your employees who may need assistance will be key to maintaining a strong, productive remote workforce.
What initiatives can managers implement to make sure employees are prioritizing their mental health?
Managers should encourage their employees to reach out to people they are comfortable with and talk about whatever they could be struggling with. Maybe even reach out professionally too. Optimal mental health boosts workplace productivity so it’s something that managers should care about and think about with their employees. Initiatives such as Mental Health Well Checks performed by trained clinicians can be an affordable intervention that surveys individuals and triages them appropriately to resources and clinicians that can identify ways to help.
Why is important to have conservation on mental health with your workforce?
Having these conversations creates a better camaraderie between you and your team as well as building up your team so that they can feel better working together and feel better about their work performance. Mental health isn’t something that just turns off when you get to work and we become robots, it very much affects our work and our relationships there so it only seems natural that it should be something we hold each other accountable for.
Moreover, when the situation calls for it, it’s important to recognize as an employer when the conversation with employees should transition from HR to a trained clinician. Solutions are emerging that make such a transition easy and natural for both employers and employees.
Do you think COVID-19 will inspire more businesses to provide more mental health resources?
Absolutely. People are working from home which creates quite a bit of isolation, a factor that typically exacerbates already existing mental health issues. Businesses are learning to reach out in different and more creative ways to check in on their people.
There is no more ‘talking at the water cooler’ so it requires more intentionality to keep up with your co-workers and employees. We have already seen the increased partnerships between businesses and providers to serve workers in the community toward mental health wellness.