The psychological dimension of this crisis is as important as its somatic counterpart. By Olivier Véran, November 19. This subject is also a business subject, for the simple reason that these citizens in mental illness are also, for many, employees. Also, the once taboo subject of managing “mentally fragile people” is becoming a central and widely shared challenge. Ideas for reflection …
COVID-19: the subject of mental health highlighted …
Since the end of 2020, the word has (finally) been launched, the veil has been lifted: we can (finally) talk about mental health without having to take a thousand and one precautions or hide behind a finger.
But not in just any context. Indeed, the subject has been brought to the forefront in this particularly complicated period of pandemic which we no longer see the end.
You can regularly follow on the website of Public Health France a barometer dedicated to the evolution of behavior and mental health during the epidemic.. With different samples surveyed in different waves. The site is pretty well done, although we regret an approach based solely on closed questions. Yet here we have the opportunity to work on verbatim, testimonials… So much richer elements to understand the situation and act better.
The results of the Public Health France / BVA barometer are final. We can for example read:
an upward trend in depressive states; a high level of anxiety states; an increase in sleep disturbances.
This subject is also a business subject, for the simple reason that these citizens in mental illness are also, for many, employees. Moreover, several barometers have been launched on this subject in particular, consulting firms in prevention and management of psychosocial risks finally feeling the legitimacy, and the opportunity, to share this complex and worrying subject. An opportunity to be able to talk again about mental health at work after a long period dedicated to “well-being at work”, newborn baby distorted by “Quality of life at work”. Subject itself too often reduced to the deployment of tables of baby foot and distribution of smoothies in the halls of large companies.
Also, the once taboo subject of managing “mentally fragile people” is becoming a central and widely shared challenge. The management of individuals in psychic fragility cannot be improvised, it is not something that one learns in management school. Nor at the University for that matter, outside the psychology course. And even.
On the other hand, as we have been able to underline on numerous occasions during our various studies on the Employee Experience in times of crisis, managers themselves share their distress. They tell us, more and more, the difficulties they encounter on the one hand in remote management, and on the other hand in the management of complex personal situations.
So, for many, they turn to human resources actors to find salvation there. Unfortunately, many of them discover that their colleagues are no better equipped than they are in preventing and managing this type of situation. Also, the importance of synergy with occupational medicine and occupational psychologists has never been so imperative.
… a taboo subject for many years
” My worst time of the year is when I opened a coworker’s desk drawer and the coworker left screaming. I understood too late that by opening this drawer, I had released a mind locked up by the previous manager . No, it’s not a funny story. It is one testimony among many others of a young manager confronted with a management reality. A reality that is too often not widely shared, which has existed within companies for a long time before the health crisis we are experiencing.
It is, and has always been, a major subject present in the daily life of companies, and therefore of the employees who constitute them. And yet we have often seen a lack of awareness, preparation and even training on the subject.
Also, many employees, managers and HR players find themselves trying to manage, for better or for worse, this human complexity. And it must be said: having to improvise on this subject is a real source of stress and anxiety.
In many organizations, the subject has never really been covered. At best, the occupational physician is in the loop, at worst “we tinker”. Fortunately, the collective sometimes sets in motion to best adapt the environment to these complicated situations. Some managers show a form of empathy, patience and improvisation that they themselves would not have imagined. There are also services in large organizations dedicated to supporting people with disabilities. But their rise in skills on mental disability is slow and tedious, so complex and taboo.
” Every morning, the person in charge of the service must accompany her collaborator to her workstation. To do this, she must help him cross an imaginary river in the middle of Open Space. Obviously, the ritual is the same between noon and two and in the evening. It is, in my opinion, high time to take this subject seriously. The sad period we are living in offers us the opportunity. And this opportunity must be seized long before setting foot in the professional world.
What possible courses of action?
Several avenues can be explored to better work on this subject. Some organizations have already developed several of these practices according to their maturity with regard to the subject and their relations with those involved in occupational health.
First at the level of post-bac school curriculum (why not before…?): beyond the necessary bases in social psychology, sociology or even ethnology, management training programs must provide a minimum background of management of complex human situations to future managers; from the training, meetings and sharing of good practices should be established between the occupational health services (occupational physicians and psychologists in particular) and the Grandes Ecoles and Universities. I myself am surprised, when I intervene in a company or when I give courses to future managers and HR actors, there are gaps in knowledge of the human psyche. Yet an element at the heart of the functioning of a human collective. Subject accessible to laymen of psychology, without having to transform them into a shrink. Then, within organizations: develop synergy between occupational health services, human resources and the managerial line. For example, regularly follow-up with people whose fragility is known and put in place the appropriate actions if necessary (rather than leaving the manager alone); start (or continue for some) all the politics of sensitization around the subject; create and lead managers’ collectives around these subjects. By ritualizing moments of exchange of experiences and sharing of good practices; strengthen the availability of psychologists (toll-free numbers, presence on site, personalized follow-up, etc.) through spaces dedicated to management so that they can seek advice and be accompanied by professionals; develop the provision of ” telemedecine “: By phone, by webcam see by” cabins “.
Adding the management stone of psychic complexity to the edifice of “benevolent management” is essential. Because more than a stone, it is a foundation. Foundation that will take more and more importance as the crises we go through.