Regardless of what’s going on in the world in terms of the pandemic, one thing has remained constant this entire time — our need for material handling essential workers. With the normal level of pressure that falls on these individuals, support is crucial. So, not only is it important to be wary of their safety, but also the mental health of essential workers.
In fact, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, 56% of American adults (and 64% of frontline health care workers and their families) reported that worry or stress related to the pandemic has affected them in at least one of these ways: sleep problems, poor appetite or overeating, frequent headaches or stomach aches, difficulty controlling their temper, increased alcohol or drug use, and worsening chronic health conditions. Let’s discuss some ways to mind the mental health of essential workers.
Why it’s crucial to recognize essential workers
Even as “stay at home” orders have loosened and nonessential workers may have returned to work, this doesn’t change the need to recognize the work essential workers have continued to do to keep the country moving. Throughout the entirety of the pandemic, essential workers haven’t stopped. “Essential” is still defined at the state/local level, depending on where the business is located.
Essential workers in manufacturing, warehouses, and distribution centers are crucial to the stability of the entire supply chain. Naturally, with the pandemic, it’s thanks to these workers that everyone else has had some semblance of “business as usual.” This means things like packages arriving on time, store shelves remaining mostly stocked, and activities at your facility continuing — so be sure to thank your employees today!
Though state and local orders have loosened, it’s still important to keep in mind the difference between essential and nonessential workers. As you may recall, stay at home orders and the like come from federal guidelines provided by CISA. Some states and localities use their own guidelines.
What you can do to help your team
It’s a simple fact that there’s a new normal when it comes to safety in manufacturing and warehousing. This focuses mainly on modifications that help the physical health of workers and keep them safe from COVID. But what about the mental health of essential workers? What can you do to help your team?
To start, here’s an employer checklist inspired by the National Safety Council. You can view the full checklist here.
- Share details from your benefits or community programs: Especially ones your employees may not be aware of. This includes things like access to telehealth services, help with food insecurity, help with substance abuse, childcare, homecare, nursing, etc.
- Further explain healthcare-specific benefits: Provide thorough information regarding COVID testing protocol, symptoms, and how to seek treatment. Also, discuss updates or any changes to primary care or prescription coverage for other conditions.
- Accommodate and adjust HR communications and resources: Be there for your employees, and provide a way for them to raise concerns anonymously. Show more leniency when appropriate. Be clear about return-to-work or other policies.
To help the mental health of everyone involved, more of what administrators and essential workers alike can do relates to normal COVID precautions, according to the CDC as well as the American Heart Association. In fact, much of the anxiety and stress tied to COVID deals with the “unknowns” and what can’t be controlled. Therefore, it’s important to follow all safety guidelines — things that easily can be controlled.
This means that administrators and those in leadership at your business or organization should provide as much personal protective equipment (PPE) as possible, as well as require mask-wearing and social distancing from anyone else that visits your facility.
You should also try to keep communication as open as possible and field any of your employees’ concerns. Update them as you’re updated on safe practices in the workplace from state and local governments if they aren’t already aware. That being said, it may also be a good idea to encourage “news distancing” among your employees — that is, taking regular breaks from the news. This advice comes from a nurse and psychologist, Alison Holman, who also studies trauma-related mental health issues.
What everyone can do to help essential workers
So, what can everyone do to help everyone? It’s fairly simple, really. It again comes back to the COVID precautions that have been in place since early on in the pandemic: hand-washing, wearing a mask, social distancing, and staying home if you feel ill (or seeking treatment if necessary). Essential workers are everywhere, and our need for them won’t change with or without a pandemic — helping them means helping everyone!
Looking to add safety measures in your facility?
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