The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted nearly everything about the way we live and work—which is why it’s no surprise that many employers are rethinking their approach to health and wellness in the workplace. That’s why an increasing number of employers are investing in initiatives to support employees’ mental health, both during the pandemic and after it finally comes to an end.
In this article, we’ll review why wellness programs are an essential part of life during the pandemic (and beyond) and how they’re helping employees’ mental health.
How Mental Health in the COVID-19 Era Has Changed
While mental health has long been a concern for employers and employees alike, the COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant negative impact on the emotional well-being of many U.S. adults. More than 4 in 10 adults feel worry and stress related to coronavirus has had a negative impact on their mental health. In fact, during the pandemic, there has been a significant rise in telehealth appointments to address mental health concerns.
In addition to stress related to transmission of the virus, both mental and physical health can decline in remote environments, which have become the new normal for many of today’s office employees. Social isolation and loneliness had already been linked to workplace absenteeism, decreased productivity, and lower quality of work prior to the global health crisis. Now, with so many adults isolated due to the pandemic, mental distress among Americans has tripled compared to data from 2018.
To put things into perspective, let’s say you work with a man named Bob, who has struggled with depression and anxiety for some time. Although Bob has always dealt with mental health challenges, his lively coworkers help boost his spirits and motivate him to be productive at work. Now, thanks to COVID-19, your entire company is working remotely for the time being, and Bob is socially isolated and lonelier than ever before.
With that said, if Bob’s manager is aware of his depression and anxiety and makes it a point to check in with him regularly, host virtual team gatherings, and share valuable, on-demand mental health resources, Bob may feel supported, less lonely, and more equipped to manage his day-to-day responsibilities.
This is just one example of how supporting your employees’ mental health with a wellness program can help improve employee engagement and productivity—all while decreasing healthcare costs and reducing the mental health stigma in the workplace.
How Employee Wellness Programs Can Improve Mental Health
Recognizing these concerns and the potential long-term implications, at least two-thirds of organizations have introduced new wellness benefits to support employees’ mental and emotional well-being, both during and in the wake of the pandemic. As we continue working to get back to some semblance of normal life, it’s likely that this newfound focus on mental health in the workplace will only increase in the months ahead.
Employers can improve their workforce’s mental health by reimagining their existing wellness programs and providing resources to better accommodate remote workers. What does a reimagined wellness program with an emphasis on mental well-being look like? Examples of ways major employers are adapting their wellness programs include:
Better mental health benefits
Mental health sick days
Virtual therapy sessions
Free meditation apps
Stress management programs
Virtual fitness classes
Remote group activities
Digital wellness challenges
Another way to combat pandemic stress (and support employees’ mental health in general) is to frequently check in with your team members to see how they’re doing. Less than half (47 percent) of surveyed employees said their manager is attuned to their well-being, and those who say their manager is not attuned are 69 percent more likely to say their mental health has declined during the pandemic. Train company managers to recognize the symptoms of stress, anxiety, and depression in their employees to show team members they’re cared for and supported.
Additionally, employers can begin building a culture of health and wellness that not only focuses on physical health but also emotional and financial well-being. You can bring this to life in your own organization by promoting mental health wellness initiatives and resources, taking steps to reduce the stigma around mental health at work, encouraging employees to maintain a healthy work-life balance, planning digital team-building events to address social isolation, and so on.
How Working with the Right Partner Can Improve Mental Health in the Workplace
Improving mental health in the workplace may seem daunting and even downright impossible—but with a targeted wellness strategy and a partner to support your efforts, it doesn’t have to be. By incorporating mental health resources and support into your wellness program, you can invest in the physical, emotional, and financial well-being of your employees, both during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.
Struggling with where to begin? Get in touch to learn how TargetCare can partner with your organization to help reimagine your corporate wellness initiatives to better support employees’ mental health and well-being.