Singing The Blues | Addressing the Mental Health Crisis in Our Workplaces

Article Contributed by Allison Ebner

It’s a new year! Of course, most of our celebrations were cancelled or scaled back thanks to the Omnicron variant; followed by a massive number of people spending the latter part of the holidays and much of January hunkered down with COVID after attending those so desperately needed family gatherings. We are tired. Very tired. But I am constantly amazed at the resilience and perseverance of the HR professionals that I talk to every week that are doing so much more than just showing up. YOU ARE STILL DIGGING IN! Many of the conversations circle back to how we can support our employees who are on the edge, mentally.

Whether its family struggles, financial issues, mental health challenges or just the persistence of the pandemic, employees are turning to their employers for support, empathy and ideas for how they can create a sustainably healthy future for themselves. And we need to answer that call for help.  

According to Wellable Lab’s 2022 Employee Wellness Trends Report, the extended pandemic landscape has created a shift in the overall employer benefits landscape. They point out the need for employers to create wellness plans that address the needs of current and prospective employees today – in the new landscape. The 5 wellness categories that are projected to receive the most investment from businesses in the coming year are as follows:

  • Mental Health | The percentage of US adults experiencing an increase in depressive symptoms jumped from 8.5% pre pandemic to nearly 33% today. There has also been a reported 21% increase in burnout and a 17% increase in the physical symptoms of stress.
  • Telemedicine | Most health plans have adopted this new platform for connecting doctors to patients in flexible, on-demand scenarios that can also be more cost effective.
  • Stress Management and Resilience | Employers today are motivated to increase services here for not only the well-being of their staff but also due to the rising rates of burnout and resignations, they are seeing. This is causing major disruptions in productivity and customer service.
  • Mindfulness & Meditation | Whether you invest in a corporate membership to a mindfulness app or simply share this type of information with your staff, more employers are expected to provide resources on the benefits of mindfulness during the coming year.
  • COVID 19 Vaccinations and Education | Given the fact that COVID seems destined to be with us for the foreseeable future, most employers are finding themselves in the position of continually navigating the educational awareness about vaccines and policies for their employees.

As we move forward through Q1 of the new year, what are some of the ways you can enhance your wellness benefits for your own staff, given the significant time constraints within HR teams and the potential financial constraints of your business?

  • At the very minimum, be sure you are providing employees with information on the concept of ‘well-being’. If you have an Employee Assistance Plan, be sure you are sharing information from their experts and you can invite them to speak to your employees about topics like stress management and mental health. Look for local resources that offer programs you can share with your employees.
    • Can you create an internal wellness committee that can support the efforts of the HR team to bring these resources to your teams? Creating a transparent dialogue around the topic of mental health and stress will open the lines of communication with your staff and their managers.
  • Train your managers and supervisors to be empathetic listeners. They are the front line communicators with your employees and they MUST be able to have courageous conversations with their direct reports. This relationship needs to be based on trust, accountability and transparency. If this isn’t happening, you are at a high risk for turnover and poor performance.
  • Review your current benefit and wellness strategies and see if you can add some of the following: Overall work schedule flexibility (different hours/days/schedules), team huddles that encourage and support connections and FUN activities, daily stretch or mindfulness breaks, educational programs on topics like financial wellness, good eating habits, the relationship between exercise and mental wellness – you get the idea!

Look for EANE to provide you with resources on these important topics in the coming months. In the meantime, don’t forget about our current partners that offer EANE members low and no cost solutions that you can share with your employees!

The Charge Group

EANE member companies can offer their employees access to FREE registered dietician services up to 8 times annually.

Cambridge Credit Counseling

This is a fantastic local resource that offers debt-counseling services to your employees at low rates.