MENTAL HEALTH MATTERS: SUPPORTING EMPLOYEE WELLBEING IN A PANDEMIC
Employees are more vulnerable than ever right now. Reports show that the effect of coronavirus on mental health has been severe. The risk for depression among U.S. workers has risen 102% since February (Source: Mental Health Index). A recent CDC study showed that one in four young adults have considered suicide because of coronavirus.
Between the economic impact, furloughs, and the need to quarantine and social distance during the pandemic, it is no surprise that our mental health has suffered. Uncertainty breeds stress and anxiety. We are worried about our health, our jobs, our loved ones. Parents who have children at home are facing unique struggles, often balancing childcare, virtual learning and working from home.
Fortunately, employers are beginning to recognize that supporting the mental health of team members is vital to the wellbeing of their entire organization. With coronavirus changing how we work and live, many employers are embracing their responsibility to provide mental health resources for employees and create a safe space in the workplace.
What can you do to support the mental health and wellbeing of your employees?
Employee Assistance Program (EAP)
Employee Assistance Programs provide employees with access to experienced counselors to help navigate and resolve life’s challenges. An EAP is an important resource for employees in times of crisis, including dealing with depression, grief, divorce or substance abuse. Yet it also serves employees struggling with everyday stresses and anxiety, such as time management, work-life balance, and parenting and relationship challenges.
The Anthros Employee Assistance Program includes:
- Unlimited, confidential counseling by phone or email 24/7 at no cost to the employee
- Access to licensed, experienced counselors
- Counseling in English, Spanish or French
- Benefits available to both employee and members of the employee’s household
We all know someone who is struggling right now, and EAPs are an inexpensive way to get your employees the professional help they need.
Telemedicine & Virtual Healthcare
During the pandemic many of us are avoiding non-emergency visits to doctors’ offices. To make sure their teams have convenient, affordable access to quality primary care, employers can harness technology and virtual health options. Does your employer-sponsored health insurance plan offer telehealth benefits? If not, you can explore telehealth benefits like Anthros’ Doctegrity program. This voluntary, employee-paid benefit program gives employees unlimited access to virtual primary care and behavioral health visits for a low, monthly cost.
- 24/7 access to board-certified physicians and licensed mental and behavioral health counselors through phone or secure video chat
- Fully bilingual service and support in English or Spanish
- No copays and no appointment fees
Doctegrity’s board-certified physicians are able to treat 75 percent of common conditions, such as cold, flu, and allergies, saving employees time and the high costs incurred during in-person doctor and urgent care visits.
Flexibility in Scheduling and Leave Policies
The pandemic has brought unexpected challenges and responsibilities. For those with health factors that make us at higher risk, or have loved ones at higher risk, being in close contact with coworkers and customers can be a source of danger. For parents, the pandemic has been especially difficult. In places where school is taking place virtually, parents have to balance the obligations of work with their child’s care and education.
As an employer, can you be flexible with scheduling? Temporary work-from-home, staggered shifts or alternate work hours can alleviate some of the challenges employees face. Paid time off and vacation time give employees much needed time away from the office to recharge, yet employees are not always using these benefits with travel and special events being so limited. Despite the pandemic, employers must encourage team members to use their paid leave because time away from work is an important tool for combating stress, fatigue and anxiety.
Supporting Remote Workers
Never before have so many people worked from home for such an extended period of time. Yet working from home can lead to feelings of isolation and strain our mental health. Many of us need the human connection that comes from working in an office and interacting with our coworkers.
Are you using human resources technology? HR technology makes employee paperwork more convenient and secure, and it provides a platform for managers to connect with their employees. Through HR technology platforms, employees can access their payroll history, PTO, employee handbooks and other company documents.
Don’t forget that team events can still take place virtually. Wellness, exercise, and meditation challenges are great ways to connect team members while promoting mental health and team culture.
Last but not least, talk to your employees. Find out what their challenges are and adjust your policies and resources as you can to meet these problems. Communication is the single most important tool we have to create a safe space for employees. In a time of uncertainty, frequent, consistent communication is the best way to respond to feelings of fear and anxiety.
There are many things we cannot control right now, but employers can control the steps they will take to protect their employees. If you have not already done so, create an exposure response plan and share with employees the exact steps you will take if an employee tests positive for COVID-19.
Employers and managers must work together to destigmatize conversations about mental health. Share information about the impact coronavirus has had on mental health so employees know they are not alone.
For more information about how employers can support their employees’ wellbeing during a pandemic, do not hesitate to reach out to the Anthros team.