May is mental health awareness month, and mental health issues among American workers have been on the rise since the start of this year. The pandemic has been the most traumatic event that half (50%) of all Americans have lived through, according to new research. A study by McKinsey found that one of every three employees say their return to the workplace has had a negative impact on their mental health, and they’re feeling anxious and depressed. A total of 59% of Americans are feeling isolated since the start of the pandemic despite the fact that 75% are living with someone and a third are more depressed.
Escalation Of Mental Health Issues
A poll of 1,000 people by All Points North (APN) Lodge, found that Americans are confronting escalating mental health issues such as anxiety, depression and panic attacks since the onset of the pandemic with 36.7% experiencing more anxiety, 32.5% more panic attacks and 27% more depression. Close to a third (30.3%) regularly grapple with stress and anxiety. And younger generations like Gen Z (53%) and Millennials (60%) are feeling the most traumatized by events of the last 20 months. “As the data shows, an increasing number of individuals are struggling with mental health, which of course makes sense—it’s been quite a year,” said Noah Nordheimer, CEO of APN. “But the only way we’ll get through it is by taking the steps to improve ourselves and our minds.”
A March 2022 poll conducted by the American Psychological Association suggests that Americans are in “survival mode” due to reports of high stress levels caused by inflation, the ongoing pandemic and the crisis in Ukraine. Given these stressors, it’s crucial that companies reflect on employee support and stress management at work. Managing this overwhelming feeling of global uncertainty along with day-to-day tasks can lead to even faster burnout, implicating employee morale, productivity and the company’s bottom line.
Dealing With The Mental Health Stigma
Although the spike in conversations around mental health during Covid-19 helped to reduce the stigma associated with receiving mental health care, there’s still a stigma. Fear of being judged because of a mental health diagnosis is the number one barrier to people getting help when struggling with mental health, with 57.8% citing this as the top reason they don’t seek treatment.
Providing mental health resources such as Employee Assistance Programs (EAP) are effective ways to support employees struggling with mental health. But that’s only part of the picture, according to Laura Lee Gentry, chief people officer at Enboarder. “Working with the various resources of an EAP can help employees identify and address their mental health struggles before they become a genuine obstacle to their quality of life and performance, Gentry said. “However, offering an EAP is only a small piece of the puzzle as EAP usage is below 10%. To increase their utilization, businesses have to remove the stigma surrounding EAPs such as misunderstanding mental illness and encourage employees to use them.”
Mental Health Predictions For 2022-2023
- Mental Health Support. Oliver Smith, strategy director and head of ethics for Koa Health, predicts businesses will spotlight effectiveness on mental health support and the ROI (return on investment) of their initial approaches.
- Continued Mental Health Issues. According to Smith, the prevalence of depression and anxiety in the population will continue to be high as the pandemic lingers longer than we’d like.
- More Focused Approaches. Smith believes businesses will start to have a greater focus on effectiveness on ROI in their mental support as they begin to unpick the initial approach of throwing things at the wall and seeing what sticks.
- Stigma. Smith is optimistic that we will all continue to struggle to have discussions about mental health, although the stigma will continue to fall that won’t on its own make everyone automatically comfortable talking about their mental health.
- Hybrid And Remote Work. An Ergotron survey of 1,000 full-time workers found that 56% of employees said their mental health, work-life balance and physical activity—all improved as a result of their hybrid work environment. And 88% said the flexibility to work from home or the office has increased their job satisfaction. According to Chad Severson, CEO of Ergotron, employees have adapted to the hybrid and remote work landscape—and they now prefer it. “As employers look to attract and retain talent, focusing on practices that promote well-being and help employees thrive wherever they work will be critical,” he said. And the FlexJobs’ Work Insight 2022 Survey found that remote work is considered the second most important element to compensation and benefit packages, ranked only behind salary.
- Wellness Programs. Framery believes employees should have access to a series of wellness programs, including closer access to external healthcare providers and therapists that are available during work hours if need be. Completing these activities together can help employees shake off some of the pent up anxiety, as well as cultivate a sense of comradery between colleagues. They offer e-learning classes which provide yoga and meditation courses to employees, helping them feel further cared for and seen and giving them time and space to check in on their own health.
- Four-Day Workweeks. Co-founder and CEO of Monograph, Robert Yuen believes hands-down employees need more time, which is why his company operates on a four-day workweek schedule. “A four-day workweek gives employees the space to take care of themselves, providing them space for personal development,” he said. “Since this tech startup launched a four-day workweek in 2019, employee satisfaction has reached an all-time high.”
- Meditation. Suzanne Tick, creative director at Luum Textiles, focuses on harnessing Vedic meditation teachings and techniques to aid in soothing stress and anxiety. Through Vedic meditation, people can remove the stress in their lives and create clarity to allow for creative influences to enter their life. Deeply rooted in the meditation lifestyle has helped the studio embrace fully the world of unbounded color, texture and pattern choices.
- Exemplary Leadership. Adam Weber, SVP of community at 15Five insists company top brass must lead the way in prioritizing mental wellness. “If executives want their employees to prioritize their mental health, they need to be doing the same in a very visible way,” Weber said. “It’s one thing to encourage people to take time off for therapy or a mental health day, but most leaders have yet to take the next step of doing that themselves in a transparent way.” Laura Lee Gentry agrees that management plays a big role in employee mental health in the workplace. “Since managers are an employee’s first point of contact, companies need to create HR programs that train managers and supervisors on how to spot common mental health conditions such as signs of stress and anxiety and how to approach and support employees who are showing these signs,” she explained.