The pandemic has caused tremendous disruption in every corner of life. Whether your company is making the return-to-the-office shift or prolonging remote work, leadership must reconsider the ways they foster mental health support and strengthen their organizations.

Here's how senior leaders at four companies are addressing mental health for their employees.

Ensure easy access to care

Well-being doesn't start and end with physical wellness, it also encompasses cognitive and emotional health. During these profoundly stressful times, employees at home are facing heightened business, family, and social constraints, so it's especially crucial for employers to ensure easy access to this type of care.

Digital advertising leader The Trade Desk has expanded its offerings to include meditation practices and wellness programs that employees can easily access anytime, from anywhere.

It also created a single online destination for a wide array of reading, learning, and collaborating on mental health topics, which has brought employees together.

"This has helped us enter into a broader online conversation about mental health resources, as well as a safe space to raise concerns and needs," says chief people officer Vina Leite. "Looking ahead, we will continue to add to our mental health options and services for employees. This will include 24/7 mental-health video consultation worldwide, a particularly important service as most of us continue to work from home."

Create a buddy program

While remote, many may feel isolated or disconnected from their company outside of their direct team. BlueVine, a provider of small-business banking, created a unique initiative called the BlueVine Buddy Program that matches colleagues from across offices and teams as a way to nurture bonds and provide mental health support.

"It's important that our employees have an avenue to connect with colleagues and take their mind off their day-to-day role," says BlueVine's chief people officer, Gianna Driver. "For my team in particular, I wanted to combat potential burnout and the mental anxiety created by the pandemic, while strengthening our culture and finding new ways to collaborate."

Because of the success of the program, Driver says she plans to continue with it once the company begins transitioning back to a physical office. Weekly activities in the program include guided meditations, game shows, and events around food and drinks.

Lead with empathy

Beyond new mental health apps, there are empathy-driven policies and approaches HR departments can take right now to help manage the mental health burden of employees.

"The mental health of employees needs to be a top priority as we return back to the office. These are unprecedented times, and it is normal for people to feel overwhelmed, anxious, nervous, and more," says Appian vice president of resources Dawn Mitchell. "At Appian, we offer a wide variation of tools to support mental health, such as weekly meditation sessions and free counseling for their families through our employee assistance program." 

In addition, clear, concise, and consistent communication from leadership will instill confidence and prevent undue stress. "We are trying to be open about how Covid is affecting us at various levels throughout the organization via our blog series. It's impossible to have a solution for everyone, but we must ensure employees feel like they aren't alone and that no person or level is immune to the stress and mental burden of this pandemic," says Mitchell.

Bring in experts to help

Talend CEO Christal Bemont's approach is founded on transparency and acknowledging the company's own vulnerabilities. Since the early weeks of the pandemic, she's focused on clear and regular communications and creating a two-way, open dialog about the challenges of working from home and the physical and mental toll of the global crisis.

Bemont and the entire executive team rallied on a plan to address some of the growing anxiety and fear among employees. This involved a series of programs, including bringing in mental health experts from Healthy Minds Innovations to provide practical advice and guidance for remaining calm and resilient through the pandemic and beyond.

As a data-driven company, Talend regularly does pulse surveys of its employees. In doing so, Christal found that almost 90 percent felt that the programs are helping them feel well supported by their management and connected to the overall business.

All of this to say: Leadership plays a critical role in ensuring the well-being and success of its people. Addressing and implementing mental health support can enable employees to drive and deliver their best during uncertain times.