How Employers Can Care for Mental Health During Isolation

April 15th, 2020 | 6 min read

Happy mother and child sitting at a desk while working from home

Across America, the act of social or physical distancing is rightly being heralded as an act of patriotism. Communities, states, and countries are coming together during the COVID-19 pandemic by keeping a safe distance from each other. The majority of CareSource’s workforce has transitioned to working remotely before government mandates and provides resources to support the wellbeing of employees in their new environment.

In every industry, there are challenges that come with working from home or a disruption in a routine. 

“Kids at home full time, a partner’s possible job loss, lack of basic necessities, let alone worry about contracting illness, are all added stressors on daily life,” says Jonas Thom, Vice President of Behavioral Health at CareSource. “Unfortunately, the stigma around mental health and behavioral health still exists despite the fact that pandemics are stressful.”

These reactions are healthy, normal and something employers and employees need to accept and address as needed. Furthermore, they will also nee​d to be readdressed once the world goes back to 'normal' back at the office.

Know the Differences Between Social Distancing, Quarantine and Isolation

​The SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration​​) published a four-page document outlining the tips for social distancing, quarantine and isolation ​during an infectious disease outbreak. This resource is worth reviewing and saving as it walks through emotions you may be experiencing and offers care tips and resources for more help. The document clearly outlines the differences of social distancing, quarantine and isolation. It is important to distinguish what each means as the terms are often used as synonyms, though they are not. 

  • Social Distancing:Way to keep people from interacting closely or frequently enough to spread an infectious disease. Schools and other gathering places such as movie theaters may close, and sporting events and religious services may be cancelled.
  • Quarantine:Separates and restricts the movement of people who have been exposed to a contagious disease to see if they become sick. It lasts long enough to ensure the person has not contracted an infectious disease.
  • Isolation: Prevents the spread of an infectious disease by separating people who are sick from those who are not. It lasts as long as the disease is contagious. 

Understand How Working from Home is Different

One of the dangers of working from home is how easy it can be to forget to set boundaries. It is essential for employees to strike a balance to truly be productive as a work from home employee. Make sure your team does not take for granted the importance of:

  • Exercise:Any movement from walking down the driveway to a run through the neighborhood
  • Healthy eating:Not snacking constantly because you are working from the kitchen table
  • Sleep: Allow your body and your brain to turn off 
  • Time Off:Shut down your computer and walk away from your workspace
  • Hard Work: Everyone must remain productive to move the business forward

Acknowledge the Difficulty of Working at Home and Parenting

Though regular offices have their share of distractions, they are rarely as personal as the ones at home.​ ​Many parents are suddenly balancing working from home, parenting one or more children in their home and attempting to teach those child(ren) all at the same time. 

While CareSource employees have received reimbursement for their childcare expenses, many of the childcare centers are now closed. Employers now have to acknowledge that there are parents on their team who are managing both a full workload as an employee and as a (grand)parent throughout​ the day.

“If you are on a call with an employee in this situation, please be patient,” says Toms. “Maybe even invite the child to make an appearance on video to say hello as they are likely ​curious about what is happening.”

You can also reference these helpful links to support your employees through this time and to acknowledge just how large of an opportunity this is for families across our society. ​

Share How to Ask for Help

Encourage your team to talk to your primary care doctor or another health professional about mental health problems. They can connect your team with the right mental health services. 

“I cannot stress enough that asking for help is not a sign of weakness,” says Thoms. “Instead, as a clinician I believe that asking for help is always an act of courage.”

​If someone does not have a health professional who is able to assist them, share these resources:

Emergency Medical Services—911

If the situation is potentially life-threatening, get immediate emergency assistance by calling 911, available 24 hours a day.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or Live Online Chat

If you or someone you know is suicidal or in emotional distress, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Trained crisis workers are available to talk 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Your confidential and toll-free call goes to the nearest crisis center in the Lifeline national network. These centers provide crisis counseling and mental health referrals.

SAMHSA Treatment Referral Helpline, 1-877-SAMHSA7 (1-877-726-4727)

Get general information on mental health and locate treatment services in your area. Speak to a live person, Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. EST.

Additionally, access these national resources:

CareSource openly speaks about the challenge to do the right thing, maintain productivity and take care of employees. The pandemic will continue to twist and turn and add stressors to everyone’s life. In a time when the only way out is through, employers have to acknowledge that balance may look a little different from day to day and hour to hour, and that's okay.