Embracing our business uncertainty together for employee mental health

By Steve Ebner

Originally appeared in The Denver Business Journal

Are you OK? It’s a simple question, but its impact can be dramatic. Now more than ever, mental health should be part of every manager’s checklist. Managing one’s mental well-being is challenging in the best of times. Now it is daunting. The suddenness of how Covid-19 has changed our workplace and family life has accelerated stress. We worry about adapting to remote working, getting gravely sick, suffering a job loss and watching assets like our 401k and our home lose value. For most businesses, your value proposition is centered around your employee team. Therefore, isn’t it appropriate to ensure your greatest asset is in optimal health?

The big challenge in the wake of the pandemic is facing the uncertainty. How long will it take for my industry and the local economy to recover? When will an effective vaccine be available? Will my loved ones be OK if they get sick? Am I up to the challenge to succeed in this new business climate? These questions can often spiral to more questions with few answers. Uncertainty is unsettling and creates fear. An employee team filled with fear and concern is also a distracted team.

Control what you can control in an uncertain world

Transparency is a valuable leadership quality, especially in our new business environment. It’s OK not to have all the answers. We now live in a more uncertain world than we did at the beginning of the year. Lots of things are out of our control. However, we still control some of the most important things about running a successful business.

We control how and what we communicate to employees. That’s a lot of power to help ease fear about the future. Be transparent, ask questions, and most significantly, listen to your teams. Understand concerns, challenges and opportunities where you can make an impact. Focus on how you can collaborate as a team to find the right answers and move employees forward.

We control the actions we take. Many businesses have been significantly disrupted. However, there are countless examples of companies shifting their models to impact new market needs. Denver manufacturers shifted facilities to make medical equipment and hand sanitizer gel. Restaurants converted empty dining rooms to neighborhood grocery markets. And, for our bank, Citywide Banks, we cancelled many planned marketing activities and instead donated the funds in the community to help purchase critical medical supplies, emergency meals at food banks, and fund grants to Denver small businesses. It’s about finding a way to make an impact despite the lingering uncertainty.

We control our corporate culture. This means how employees interact with one another, how managers support their direct reports, and how leadership prioritizes the investment and well-being of its employee team. Employee mental health, just like physical health related to Covid-19, should not be the responsibility of human resources . A dynamic culture will be one where everyone is helping to ensure the safety and wellness of each other. It’s dependent on all lines of businesses working as a true team across a company. This crisis has shown light on so many examples of positive corporate cultures. These businesses were able to adapt quickly because their culture facilitated collaboration, transparent communication and high employee engagement.

We control access to our support network. For companies, your support network includes your board of directors, your banking team, your supply vendors and other partners. For an employee, it’s your supervisor, coworkers, friends and family. In Colorado, all of us are also blessed with a support network of amazing mental health service organizations dedicated to helping individuals maximize their wellness. The Mental Health Colorado website is a great place to start if you need help.

Uncertain times lie ahead for our Colorado business marketplace. However, uncertainty doesn’t have to define your company’s strategy or the mindsets of employees. Along with tapping the resources of your board, corporate partners and key vendors, your employees will be critical to navigating a successful course for your company. Make sure you are doing your part to check on your team’s mental well-being. Instead of diving into your list of action items on your next video conference call, ask participants, “How are you doing?”

We understand that uncertainty is affecting us all. Citywide Banks stands with our customers, employees and communities we call home. While we work through this together, please know that our team is here as your partner in supporting your financial needs. Access our Covid-19 resource center at www.citywidebanks.com/covid-19-communication-center.

Citywide Banks is a business-focused bank that has championed mental health wellness across Colorado for more than 50 years. The bank offers a comprehensive suite of deposit, lending, and treasury management solutions for businesses. Citywide Banks is a Member FDIC and an Equal Housing Lender.