Mental health has been a hot topic among America’s largest employers in recent years. So much so that mental health benefits are becoming increasingly popular. Employees are offering them alongside more traditional benefits like health insurance and paid time off. But with America now struggling to get back to work in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, will employers have new mental health concerns to worry about?

No one knows for sure what America’s collective state of mind is right now. However, statistics from the American Institute of Stress showed long before the pandemic that some 80% of U.S. workers suffer from some sort of work related stress. The Institute said that businesses collectively lose upwards of $300 billion annually due to stress issues.

One doesn’t have to be a neurosurgeon to figure out that people returning to the workplace after so many weeks of lockdown will bring plenty of stress with them. Some will be stressed out just as a result of being cooped up at home for so long. Others will be saddled with worries about paying the mortgage and keeping the lights on.

Maintaining a Positive Culture

There may be a long list of reasons explaining why American workers feel so stressed. But remember that previous statistic: more than 80% struggle with work related stress. In other words, U.S. workers are stressed by conditions at, or the demands of, work.

According to a BenefitMall article discussing ways to improve mental health in the workplace, some 35% of stressed out employees say their biggest source of stress is the boss. Ineffective company communication is another significant factor, say 80%.

Workplace culture plays a crucial role here. Management is often responsible for defining culture, which may explain why so many workers are unhappy with their bosses. Likewise, workplace morale is likely to suffer when communication is a problem among employees. Needless to say that poor communication is a culture issue.

All of this is to say that improving workplace culture should be a top priority in the coming weeks and months. Employees already stressed out about the impacts of COVID-19 do not need additional things to worry about. Improving the culture could offer a bit of respite from the other stress-inducing problems employees are destined to face.

Inviting Employees to Self-Report

BenefitMall also mentioned in their blog post the goal of encouraging employees to self-report their own stress. By inviting them to do so, employers are demonstrating that they are generally concerned about the mental health of their workers. They are also giving workers an opportunity to actually do something about their stress rather than keeping it bottled up.

The other side of that coin is discouraging employees from reporting others. While it may seem like a good idea, reporting other people only leads to resentment and further stress. It is better for an employee who recognizes stress in a coworker to encourage that person to self-report.

How does self-reporting help? By giving employers the opportunity to offer some assistance. Maybe HR can recommend a local counselor. Better yet, the company might employ a mental health professional more than capable of assisting. At any rate, employers looking for opportunities to help should be given those opportunities when possible.

We have a long road to go before COVID-19 recovery is considered complete. In the coming weeks and months, employers should be prepared to deal with more workplace stress than they have seen in the past. We all just need a bit more time to process everything and return to some semblance of normalcy.

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