COVID-19 is continuing to be disruptive to our lives, communities, and workplaces. It can be argued that all these things will be forever transformed. As leaders, it is our job to chart a course through cloudy and uncertain times, while supporting and sustaining the wellbeing and emotional health of those that work for and around us. In a recent report Mercer surveyed 500 US employers and found that 28% have introduced new programs specific to employee mental health since the pandemic began. This is a good start, but many employers are falling behind in analyzing the impact of these challenging times on employees’ mental health and providing additional support. The Mercer report argues that this needs immediate attention.
Why is it so urgent? According to a recent study conducted by the USC Dornsife Center for Economic and Social Research, symptoms of anxiety and depression have sharply increased nationally to 39%, and where I live, nearly 50% of those surveyed in LA County were experiencing symptoms. And if that wasn’t bad enough, authorities nationwide are reporting an uptick in fatal opioid overdoses during social distancing. Additionally, in the Mercer survey, 36% of respondents said that employees working remotely are experiencing mental health issues due to social isolation and economic anxiety.
Now is the time for leaders to take stock and determine if their mental health support is in alignment with their company culture, brand and core values. Now more than ever organizations need to wake up to the relational and emotional needs of their people. Giving an employee an EAP phone number to call is not enough.
The following are some real things you might do to get started in attending to these issues:
Reduce Stigma: Provide workshops and trainings for leaders that speak clear and openly about the possible struggles we may all face during these challenging times and how leaders can be helpful in calm or rough seas.
Beyond EAP: Recently a manager at a well-known Fortune 500 company reached out and said, “Sometimes it feels so limiting to offer a number and hope they receive the attention and care that is needed.” We agree. Now is the time to consider more robust mental and relational health approaches.
Expand Treatment Access: This can include video and telehealth options, onsite care, or a concierge mental health support.
Coaching as Prevention: Regular coaching for your team can act as a preventive approach and provide all the benefits of coaching (engagement, well-being, etc.).
Peer Group Training: Combine peer learning with individualized coaching to build a strong community of concern for your organization. Participants benefit from shared learning and networking, building peer relationships that provide benefits long after the formal program has ended.
There is no better time than now to address the critical issue of the relational and emotional health of your employees.
For more information and ideas about how we can help.