Yakima staff give attention to psychological well being as they return to the workplace

If you had looked out the window of Ramiro Herrera’s barber shop on Yakima Avenue a year ago, you would have seen empty streets, one or two shops open, and no people in sight.

Today Herrera looks out his window and sees restaurants full of people and cafes for people to sit inside. His barber shop has seen an increase in customers.

Customers of the hair salon have opened up about their stress and mental health problems during the pandemic. Some are excited to go back to work and some are sad to have to leave home, Herrera said.

“From what I’ve heard from my clients, it went (from) ‘Hey, I go back to the office once or twice a week’ to ‘I’ve been back in the office for a couple of days’ and now it’s’ Me I’m full in the office again, ‘”said Herrera.

Since employees at many workplaces are asked to return to work in person, a renewed focus was placed on the mental health of the employees during this transition period.

“We are probably entering one of the strangest periods of ambiguity, tension, and uncertainty in modern history,” said Kira Mauseth, clinical psychologist at Seattle University, during a COVID briefing from the state health department earlier this month.

Mental health tools

To reduce the fear of going back to work, colleagues in the workplace should support each other and consciously care for one another, said Ron Gengler, chief clinical officer at Comprehensive Healthcare in Yakima.

“The work culture will change due to the pandemic, but it should also keep changing to be more accepting and inclusive,” he said. “Change should help us to improve.”

The teams should focus on asking each other questions, Gengler said. The way we ask questions is important; B. “Help me understand” instead of “Why did you do this”.

“Take the attitude of willingness to learn instead of wanting to be critical,” he said.

Many people will survive the pandemic with mental illness. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in five Americans will develop a mental illness each year, and more than 50% will be diagnosed with a mental illness or disorder at some point in their life.

People should practice healthy coping mechanisms when they are not experiencing anxiety or panic attacks so that these tools are available when they need them, Gengler said.

“When someone calls me and has a panic attack, I tell them, ‘Please go outside and tell me the first flower or plant you see. Now describe it for me, ‘”he said. “I focus them on a distraction and their fear decreases because your brain is now preoccupied with your frontal lobe.”

Many people also return to work with the trauma of deaths in their families or social groups due to COVID-19.

“We will meet people in our work environment who have suffered a loss,” said Gengler. “We will not resolve the grief of many people. We just have to be available. “

When a family member or friend of an employee dies, they usually take a few days off before returning to work and receiving support from their coworkers, Gengler said. During the pandemic, it was 18 months of mourning in isolation for some people.

Growing closer together from a distance

Jacob Butler, Marketing Manager at Valley Mall in Union Gap, witnessed the death of an extended family member in December 2020. Butler was working remotely at the time and was unable to speak to colleagues in person. Butler returned full-time in June after working four days a week at home and a 14 month long in the office.

“I am definitely a type of person. I don’t think either of us realized how dependent we can be on others until we are in a situation where we have no one, ”said Butler. “There were days when I just wanted someone to speak to someone in person and see a printout beyond a zoom call.”

Butler said the mall’s team got closer while working remotely. With Zoom calls involving staff from offices across the west coast, team members made friends with people they would not necessarily speak to in times without a pandemic.

“I would say we have become closer as a team. We definitely do more checking each other’s mental health, ”Butler said.

After a year of working remotely, the team felt more like family, Butler said.

The Yakima Valley Mall saw significant customer growth this month.

“We’re seeing really big traffic and some of the renters are reporting incredible data on traffic, so we’re seeing this surge in people coming back,” said Butler. “It’s proof of how people are recovering.”

A hairdressing trade in downtown Yakima was closed for four months from March to June 2020. Herrera said about 30% of their regular customers felt uncomfortable visiting a hairdresser during the pandemic. Herrera and his staff looked forward to going back to work last summer.

COVID-19 has put people in a more cautious situation, Herrera said, so he wants to make sure people feel that the barber shop is a safe environment. Herrera said his business has been labeled a “cheap therapist” where people tend to open up and say whatever comes to their mind.

“Obviously, COVID-19 has caused a lot of different stresses, but you often hear about financial stress,” he said. “How can you mitigate that while paying for a service? I would love to give everyone a free haircut, but at the end of the day everyone needs to have some kind of profitability. “

Herrera found that these days people are much happier and more relaxed when they walk into the store.

And he tried to create a work environment where his colleagues check each other out, he said.

“When I see or notice something, I usually try to check in when they’re taking the day off, or need a long weekend, or maybe just going for a walk to get some fresh air,” he said. “I’m very careful to take care of it.”

share experience

For some, like Kristen Charlet, communications and community relations manager for the Washington Department of Social and Health Services, finding the mental strength to reach people and have engaging conversations over video calls has been a challenge.

Her pre-pandemic job was social and included weekly conversations with community partners. She said she missed the coffee chats and casual conversations with colleagues and customers.

Charlet said it was important to recognize the trauma that people went through alone while working remotely.

“So many people have been lost or financially destroyed by this pandemic,” she said. “It took its toll on pretending it was all a quote, ‘back to normal’ doesn’t mean that change isn’t trauma-related.”

The mother of one of Charlet’s employees died of COVID. Death made him a great public health and mental health advocate, Charlet said.

Your colleague spoke publicly about his experiences at a virtual employee meeting with more than 200 people.

“I yelled through the whole thing,” said Charlet.

Charlet said it was important to be transparent with colleagues and normalize the conversation about mental health.

Comments are closed.