Along with navigating the COVID-19 pandemic and its threat to the physical well-being of employees, employers face a new health crisis — a mental health crisis. As employees try to adjust to their new normal, whether that involves working from home or going into the office, they’re under significant strain.
In fact, nearly 70% of employees say that the pandemic has been the most stressful time of their professional careers. Therefore, employers now need to step up and support employee health and well-being in any way they can.
Each year, one in five U.S. adults will experience mental illness, but only half will receive treatment. Moreover, the National Alliance on Mental Health reports that the U.S. experiences $193.2 billion in lost earnings annually due to serious mental illness. Although mental illness can occur for many different reasons, one of the most common factors is chronic stress.
When employees are stressed, they run the risk of burnout. According to the World Health Organization, burnout is a syndrome characterized by exhaustion, decreased engagement, and reduced productivity. In addition to risking burnout, stressed employees are more likely to develop costly chronic conditions, miss deadlines, and perform poorly.
What’s more, many employees are turning to unhealthy coping mechanisms in response to their stress. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that 40% of U.S. adults struggled with mental health or substance abuse in June of 2020. A rise in substance abuse creates a pandemic within a pandemic.
Beyond the productivity and health risks, addressing employee stress during these uncertain times will go a long way in establishing trust between upper management and employees and create loyalty. Employees will remember how their employer treated them during a global pandemic, which could hurt or help your brand, depending on your response.
Employee mental health initiatives will vary based on the organization, but may include some of the following strategies:
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Addressing mental health concerns and providing employee mental health support is essential, but many employers struggle with what they can do. What’s most important is that employers do something and that they do it as soon as possible.