Sarah’s Corner: Three Ways to Support Employee Mental Health in a Crisis

HR pros are being challenged and called upon to support the mental health of employees. How can you support?

by Sarah Koller, SHRM-CP. People Operations Manager @ GoCo

Hi, I’m Sarah! And I do HR for an HR software company. You’d think it’d be easy, but I’m new-ish to the HR world and every day is an adventure. This blog series is an attempt to peel back the layers of daily operations of a small HR department – of one – and the company it works to support.
Sarah Koller, People Operations Specialist ∙ GoCo

At GoCo, we made mental health a topic of conversation and company initiative long before the pandemic was on our radar. Here’s what we did for Mental Health Awareness in October. Now as we grapple with life during COVID-19  and in an age of social distancing we have to keep the conversation and support open. I try to focus on our employees’ well-being with everything we do. Humans are more resilient than we usually give ourselves credit for but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do little things to take care of ourselves.

Encourage the little things

In an overwhelming moment sometimes the little things can make a bigger difference than you think. Take time every week to remind employees to:

  • Breathe. Meditate.
  • Walk. Talk.
  • Get some sunshine.
  • Be in the current moment.
  • Wash your hands. Don’t touch your face.

Remind everyone of your company benefits

It’s no secret that social distancing and remote work is going to take its toll on everyone in someway or another. And we don’t know what that is going to look like yet. It’s important to have a support system. Know what to look for according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. It’s also important to stress that these programs are to encourage the small things, however, if you or someone you know is suffering, reach out to a professional. For GoCo employees and their dependents, MDLive and our health plans have mental health support. I try to remind our employees about these benefits on a regular basis, just to keep it top-of-mind.

We also recently partnered with Headspace to offer guided meditation subscriptions to our employees. Headspace is doing a lot of education on the benefits of meditation and we are thrilled to be able to provide this option. Rich Pierson, the CEO of Headspace, says they are “expand[ing] access to [their] meditation content to help folks manage anxious thoughts and build mental resilience and navigate through this uncertainty.” 

Reach out to your team and provide incentives to encourage connections

Since we went remote, GoCo has used weekly surveys to gather feedback. We noticed at the beginning of quarantine that there was a sense of disconnect between direct reports and their managers. We also heard people needed to understand how we were connecting to the community at large. From this was born the Walk & Talk (& listen) challenge. Here’s the document. One of the challenge’s goals was to help us keep connected in the time of social distancing.  As Jack Kwicien put it in Connecting with clients and prospects during a pandemic, “…together we will emerge from this a stronger and better society.” 

These are just some of the things we’re doing at GoCo. I’d love to hear your thoughts or things you are doing. We, as HR pros, are being challenged and called upon to support the mental health of our people and I know it is a challenge we’re up for!


As GoCo’s People Operations Manager, Sarah is on a mission to make GoCo the best place to work in Houston. She’s responsible for attracting, recruiting, and retaining the awesome humans behind GoCo, and developing programs and policies that protect and nurture the company’s core values and culture.

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