As we approach the end of 2020, and nearly a year into the COVID-19 pandemic, you and your employees may be experiencing a plethora of emotions: tiredness, grief, anxiety, fear, indifference, etc.  As a result, you may be finding it difficult to plan for the future.  While many of you would typically be thinking about what personal and professional goals you’d like to achieve in the coming year, or planning your travel – this year, if we’ve learned anything, it’s that we cannot plan anything.  I’ve spoken to many people recently who say that, while they’re happy to put this trying year behind them, they’re not as optimistic for the new year as they would’ve been in years past due to the hardships, they’ve experienced this year.

All is not lost and there are reasons to renew your faith in the future. I’ve outlined some ways you can help your employees set goals for themselves and try to start the new year off right.

Reflect on your current mental health status

Firstly, it’s important that we all reflect on the current status of our mental health.  Encourage your employees to reflect on their mental health by asking themselves how they feel on a daily basis and what the contributing factors to those emotions are.  You may also refer them to this resource which can provide them with a better sense of their relationship to different categories.  Once they have a better understanding about what is causing them to feel a certain way, they can create an action plan that addresses those specific concerns.  For example, if they find that limitations regarding social interactions are causing them feelings of loneliness and isolation, they can prioritize scheduling virtual or physically distanced meet-ups with their friends and family.  Or, if they’re experiencing continued grief, they can work with a grief counsellor to help them overcome these difficult times.

Prioritize mental and physical health through exercise

Exercise is proven to have a significant impact on one’s mental and physical health.  Despite restrictions regarding fitness centre closures, it’s still possible to get exercise in other ways.  As an employer, you can help encourage your employees to be physically active by providing activities for them to participate in.  These may include virtual fitness, yoga or dance classes.  To make the most out of these investments, I encourage you to ask your employees what activities they’d be most interested in participating in.  You can even run a fitness challenge or group dance classes this year to make it fun and motivating for your employees!  This is also a great way to boost employee morale and accountability, or simply provide a positive distraction.

Communicate your needs

When it comes to setting professional goals for the upcoming year, I encourage you to speak with your employees early on in the year to get an idea about what professional goals they have in mind for themselves.  Since COVID-19 drastically impacted businesses in different ways, it’s important that an employee’s professional goals are as closely aligned with your organization’s goals as possible.  The upcoming year shouldn’t necessarily be about achieving an end goal, but rather about the journey it takes to get there, especially considering that the goals may change throughout the year.

It’s been a long, hard year for many of us, and as you look to the future, I encourage you to lead with patience and understanding, especially when it comes to goal setting.  If your employees are in need of mental health support, encourage them to get the support they need by accessing their Employee Assistance Program, or any of these useful organizations.  I wish you a safe and happy New Year and remember we are all in this together.