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Mallory Barg Bulman, Research Director of Finance Process Excellence at Gartner, discusses how change affects employees and what managers can do to promote mental health in the workplace

Mental health symptoms are increasing since the beginning of the coronavirus, according to the CDC. About 41% of adults reported struggling with mental health or substance abuse issues in June. Mallory Barg Bulman, Research Director of Finance Process Excellence at Gartner, spoke with Francis Rose from “Government Matters” about this issue Tuesday.

Bulman explained that change management is critical for making the workforce as productive and engaged as possible. With the coronavirus pandemic, employees have had to deal with a number of small changes in their day-to-day lives, which “have about two times the effect of those big changes,” according to Bulman.

Gartner found through its research that employees can stay engaged through change and uncertainty up to a certain point, after which they can no longer sustain that level of engagement. “There really is a breaking point,” Bulman said.

Strategies federal managers can take from the private sector to support the mental energy and wellness of their employees include having a plan to address burnout and making sure to really listen. “Maybe it involves redistributing the workload, or even just letting that employee know that you see that they’re under a time of stress,” Bulman said.

Regular monitoring of employee behaviors is important, said Bulman, “whether it’s … the descretionary effort, where they’re putting their time, how their morale, how their stress level seems – those are really things that supervisors and peers, frankly, can be keeping track of for one another.”

Bulman said that with the upcoming presidential transition that will take place regardless of who wins the election, the thousands of political appointees and their high turnover will present a lot of change to federal employees. Bulman will be watching “the extent to which federal managers are equipped and ready to support their workforce through those changes.”

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